TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Weighs Military Action Against ISIS in Syria

"If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you wherever you are"

The United States is open to the possibility of military action against Islamist militants in Syria, a top Obama Administration official said Friday, warning that the U.S. will “do what is necessary to protect Americans.”

“We’ve made very clear time and again that if you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you wherever you are,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters. “And that’s what’s going to guide our planning in the days to come.”

President Barack Obama has resisted pressure from both outside and inside his administration to take a more muscular approach in Syria, where a bloody civil war has claimed 191,000 lives in recent years, according to a new United Nations estimate Friday. But the emergence of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which released a graphic video last week depicting the beheading of American journalist James Foley, has raised the stakes—and has seemingly made American officials, already engaged in targeted military action in Iraq, more willing to consider doing so on the other side of the border.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that any strategy against ISIS would have to include action against militants in Syria, and Rhodes didn’t disagree with that assertion Friday.

“Well, we certainly agree that any strategy to deal with the [ISIS] organization has to deal with both sides of the border, Iraq and Syria,” Rhodes said. “The strategy that we are already undertaking does address that in the sense that we are providing training and equipping and assistance to the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish security forces who are fighting them on the ground in Iraq.

“We are also providing support and military assistance to the moderate Syrian opposition,” he added. “What we would like to see is those efforts squeeze the space where [ISIS] operates.”

Rhodes cautioned that no decisions have been made.

“I don’t want to get ahead of decisions the President hasn’t been presented with, specific military options outside of those carrying out the current missions in Iraq,” he said. “But we would certainly look at what is necessary in the long term to make sure we’re protecting Americans.”

TIME White House

White House Touts Petition Site But Many Await Replies

President Obama delivers a statement to provide an update on Iraq and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri - DC
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement to provide an update on Iraq and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 18, 2014 in Washington, DC> Olivier Douliery/pool—© Olivier Douliery/pool/Corbis

A mixed record

The White House could hardly contain itself earlier this month when President Barack Obama signed a bill allowing American consumers to unlock their cell phones. The bill was driven in part by the White House’s own petition website, “We The People,” and touted as an example of a new model of citizen advocacy influencing change in Washington.

“Today, President Obama will sign into law the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, and in doing so, will achieve a rare trifecta: a win for American consumers, a win for wireless competition, and an example of Democracy at its best—bipartisan Congressional action in direct response to a call to action from the American people,” Jeffrey Zients, the Director of the National Economic Council, and Sen. Patrick Leahy wrote on the Huffington Post.

But the true story is hardly that simple. The “We The People” site, launched in 2011, has had a mixed history of living up to its promise of making the government more responsive to citizens.

While more than 151 responses have been posted, from serious ones on gun violence to humorous ones calling on the federal government to build a Death Star, some of the most controversial petitions have been waiting, and waiting, for official replies.

To date 19 petitions have reached the 100,000-signature threshold at which they are entitled to a response, most recently a petition calling for a “Michael Brown Law” requiring all police officers to wear body cameras in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo. shooting. But most of the 19 do not pertain to recent events; seven petitions are outstanding from 2013 and one, calling for the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, is outstanding from 2012.

Nearly all of the outstanding petitions are on politically or diplomatically sensitive topics that the White House is clearly trying to wait out, from a plea to pardon admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden to a call to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. The White House was unresponsive to a petition to “Stop SOPA 2013″—referring to a divisive anti-piracy bill—so an equally popular sequel was created, “Stop SOPA 2014.” And despite all of the White House’s harsh rhetoric on Russia since its annexation of Crimea and the shoot-down of Malaysia Airline Flight 17, the administration has yet to reply to a petition to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.

The White House has also passed on replying to a number of petitions, including one to free Wikileaks-leaker then-Pfc. Bradley Manning, citing its terms of participation. “To avoid the appearance of improper influence, the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government in its response to a petition,” the website states.

The outstanding petitions with more than 100,000 signatures by date of creation:

-Apr 12, 2012: “Support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs).”

-May 3, 2013: “Invest and deport Jasmine Sun who was the main suspect of a famous Thallium poison murder case”

-May 15, 2013: “Provide necessary assistance to prevent Taiwanese people from being murdered by Philippines and rebuild friendship.”

-June 9, 2013: “Pardon Edward Snowden”

-July 7, 2013: “Declare Muslim Brotherhood organization as a terrorist group”

-Aug 22, 2013: “Stop SOPA 2013″

-Nov 12, 2013: “Reform ECPA: Tell the Government to Get a Warrant”

-Dec 11, 2013: “Remove offensive state in Glendale, CA public park”

TIME 2014 Election

The 6 Feistiest Ads From the Battle To Be Arizona’s Next Governor

Senate Judiciary Cmte Holds Hearing On Americans' Access To Voting Booths
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about voter rights at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill December 19, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

One Republican ad for governor in Arizona includes screaming sheep

The Arizona gubernatorial primary election is just four days away, and for months now, Arizonans have been hearing the six Republican candidates on the ballot fight over who can do one thing best: stop illegal immigration.

Arizona has long been at the center of the national immigration policy debate, especially this year as record numbers of unaccompanied minors crossed the Mexico-United States border. Current Republican governor Jan Brewer—who championed the state’s controversial SB1070, or “show-me-your-papers,” law—is term-limited, and the race to take up her mantle has been feisty. Candidates’ soundbites at a gubernatorial debate in late July included Ken Bennett, Arizona’s current secretary of state, saying, “a good neighbor doesn’t hop your fence, break into your garage, and live out of your freezer;” former California Congressman Frank Riggs adding that he would have credibility with Congress because he knows where the men’s room is at the Capitol; and Scott Smith, former mayor of Mesa, Arizona, comparing his competitors’ promises to carnival games.

The Republican nominee will face Democratic challenger Fred DuVal, former president of the Arizona Board of Regents, who has been endorsed by Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly. Republican campaign advertisements, predictably, have centered on who would best protect the border. Here’s a roundup of the topline:

Scott Smith, former mayor of Mesa, Arizona, has Brewer’s endorsement. His spot features screaming sheep:

Ken Bennett, the Arizona secretary of state who asked Hawaii officials to verify President Barack Obama’s birthplace in 2012 before putting him on the state’s presidential ballot, says he’s a nice guy, and a tough one:

Doug Ducey, Arizona state treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO, snagged endorsements from Senator Ted Cruz and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

Christine Jones, attorney and former GoDaddy executive, got a boost this week from GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons, who contributed $1 million to a PAC backing her campaign:

Frank Riggs, former U.S. Representative, does pullups while discussing border security:

Andrew Thomas, former Maricopa county attorney, adds that he has “stood up to the gay lobby:”

TIME #Asktime

#AskTIME Q & A: Alex Altman

Welcome to TIME’s weekly Q&A series #AskTIME. This week, we’re chatting with Alex Altman, who co-authored this week’s cover story on Ferguson and spent the week there reporting on the ground.

We will start posting questions and responses at 1 p.m. EST and stay online for about 30 minutes. We have been gathering reader questions all week on Whisper, Twitter and Facebook but will also take questions in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #askTIME.

If you’d like to follow along with #AskTIME going forward, sign up here.

Outsider asks: What do you think the chances are of the officer involved being charged in this case, and the police chief coming under investigation for lack of management (or a stated policy) regarding minorities in his city – given the other death that occurred by Police 4 miles away from where Brown was shot? Have you heard of any legal action coming down?

I don’t want to speculate about whether the officer will be charged. The county prosecutor has begun presenting evidence to a grand jury, but that process will take months. Gov. Jay Nixon has promised a “vigorous prosecution,” which is an unusual statement that gives you a sense of the political pressure at play. DOJ has opened a parallel investigation into federal (criminal) civil rights violations. They are probing allegations that the Ferguson police force has a pattern of racial profiling, borne out in both residents’ anecdotes and statistics collected by the state.

Whisper: ‘What are the protesters hoping to accomplish by destroying the things around them. It takes all respect away from their cause.’

It’s important to distinguish between the small faction of people who are there to fight cops or break stuff, and the vast majority, which is there to peacefully call attention to a deeply felt grievance. The protesters are not “destroying things.” That’s being done by other folks, who are there for reasons that have little to do with the death of Michael Brown. A week ago, when there was significant looting, a lot of protesters put themselves at personal risk by standing guard at storefronts to stop it. There are more volunteers spending hours a day actively policing the crowd than there are folks intent on doing damage. People are doing some pretty heroic stuff in an attempt to keep the peace.

Whisper: how do we shift the focus from a race issue to an issue where we see our police are out of control?

I think this question underscores why the story has gotten such traction. So much is screwed-up about what’s happened in Ferguson that it touches different nerves for different people. I agree that the “militarization” of police is a big issue. But so are the racial divisions that led to this point, and which have been deepened by the shooting. Focus on whatever aspect of the story you want, but there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed.

deconstructiva asks: Alex, we know that journalists normally try to cover the story instead of being the story, but the Ferguson police’s arrest of journalists have changed that, especially the initial two arrests in the McDonald’s. Has that made your coverage there any harder, or not really? Why did the police raid that McDonald’s in the first place? No doubt many view their food as a health hazard, but that’s no excuse to storm the place to clear it out and arrest journalists. Did anyone arrest or otherwise discipline those officers who made the arrests? I wonder how events and coverage would’ve played out if the police had left the media alone, but then again, given their brutality against local residents, their behavior would’ve been exposed anyway. And if the large media presence wasn’t there, how much worse would events be? Sunil Dutta’s recent op-ed defending fellow police shows a potentially dangerous mindset that obviously is not strictly his alone.

I have thought about this a lot. The arrest of journalists is obviously unfortunate, and for a bunch of reasons. One is it created a storyline which diverts attention from the bigger issues at the core of the case: the death of a 18-year-old kid; the systemic issues that led to it; the question of what transpired in the Brown-Wilson encounter; the protests that have ensued; the challenge of preventing a repeat occurrence. As you say, when at all possible, reporters should try to cover the story without inserting themselves into it. It’s not always possible.

There’s no question that the media have affected the trajectory of events. I suspect the press horde has probably made police more cautious about how they deploy force, since they know their actions are liable to be splashed across the national news. Nearly everyone I met was happy to talk to me—which is a rarity—because they hope the reporting calls attention to problems in the community. I also think the media presence eggs on some agitators who want to mug for the cameras.

Some of this stuff is unavoidable. And the majority of media in Ferguson are doing a very good job covering an important story under difficult circumstances. But the swarm has grown to unwieldy proportions and there are some folks who seem to be courting controversy rather than trying to avoid it. The last day or so that I was in Ferguson (I was there for a week before leaving yesterday morning), the press pack began outnumbering protesters at time. Reporting started to feel like rubbernecking. We have to be conscious of when our presence becomes a hindrance. (And yes, I recognize the hypocrisy in saying the press shouldn’t be the story, then giving a windy first-person response.)

yogi1 asks: Alex what are the chances a lame duck Congress passes anything substantial on immigration reform after the midterms?

Pretty much zero. House Republicans have blocked efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill for more than a year, despite strong public support and pressure from business lobbies and evangelicals. The right’s resistance will only intensify if President Obama issues executive orders on immigration policy this fall, as he has suggested. I have written about what moves he may be considering, such as expanding DACA to grant relief from deportation for potentially millions.

Whisper: ‘has the officer responsible been arrested, detained, placed on probation or faced any repercussions? if not, why?

The officer who shot Brown is on paid administrative leave. He’s left the area, and is in an undisclosed location because of threats to his safety. The Ferguson police hasn’t addressed your question specifically, and the St. Louis County police tells me they will not release the investigative component of the incident report, which deals with what happened. It’s possible that Wilson will face criminal charges. But we won’t know for months; the prosecuting attorney is hoping to finish presenting evidence by mid-October.

DonQuixotic asks: Alex, given your past coverage on the House vote to try and help Marijuana businesses gain access to financial systems, what do you think the likelihood of legalization is? Is it only a matter of time? How much support is the move seeing on the Hill?

There has been very little progress on legalization at a federal level. There’s not even much progress on giving legitimate, tax-paying businesses in states that have legalized pot access to banks, which is an urgent and obvious problem. Lawmakers want to see how the experiments unfolding in Colorado and Washington play out. But I think there’s no question the legalization movement is gaining momentum at the state level. Oregon and Alaska may follow this year. California is the big one, and industry folks believe it will pass a legalization measure in 2016.

deconstructiva asks: Alex, in a change of pace from Ferguson coverage, as you travel all over the country to cover politics, what do you think is the biggest difference in political coverage all over the US – elected officials at highest levels (President, Congress, governors, state legislators) vs. everyday people in your interviews, or different areas of the country, like East Coast vs. Midwest vs. South, or even DC / Beltway vs. outside DC (everywhere else)? Do DC politicians and the media really have its own collective mindset about politics apart from the rest of country, thus the “Beltway media” term mentioned a lot, or is this more of an urban myth and Beltway coverage really isn’t that much different as say, reporting from Ohio or California?

(My best guess – if “Beltway media” reporting is unique among national reporting, I suspect it comes from DC’s sole existence as our nation’s capital and thus politics is a daily livelihood for nearly everyone there …so politics might be seen as a game to be played (and manipulated) instead of a daily job of tackling everyday issues and keeping things running, though of course, Congress is failing to do even this bare minimum, but I digress.)

If I understand your question, the biggest difference is the stakes, both political and monetary. Read coverage in, say, mid-sized metro newspapers around the U.S., and you will see the same focus on incremental inside-baseball news, fleeting “scoops,” partisan bickering. “Beltway” reporting heightens these tendencies, because the characters are bigger, there’s more competition, and there’s an entire industry that wants this kind of coverage and is willing to underwrite it. Believe me when I tell you that a lot of reporters are even more frustrated with some of the industry trends than you seem to be.

@AprilHollowayJD asks: Did you hear any police officers disagree with the actions of the other police or is it mob/protect your own mentality?

There’s definitely a protect-your-own mentality. However, it’s just as dangerous to generalize about the behavior of police in Ferguson as it is to generalize about the protesters. Is some of the criticism of police behavior valid? Absolutely. But I also saw and spoke to a lot of police officers who were respectful of the protesters’ right to assemble, who were doing their best to lower the temperature, and who are caught in a very difficult situation not of their own making.

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: Aug. 15 – Aug. 22

From ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and the killing of Hamas leaders in Gaza to Pope Francis’ visit to South Korea and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Congress

Harry Reid’s Joke to Asians: You’re Not Smarter Than Everyone Else

"One problem that I've had today is keeping my Wongs straight"

+ READ ARTICLE

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid drew laughter from an Asian audience Thursday with a pair of Asian-themed jokes.

“I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told the guffawing crowd at the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. Video of the remarks was recorded by the Republican opposition research group American Rising.

Later, before walking off stage, Reid quipped: “One problem that I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”

The group decided against backing the Reid-endorsed Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Lucy Flores, supporting Republican Mark Hutchison instead, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

“My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize,” Reid said in a statement to TIME after publication of this story. “Sometimes I say the wrong thing.”

TIME History

Sunday Is the 200th Anniversary of the Burning of the White House

Capture and Burning of the city of Washington, 1815. White House
Capture and Burning of the city of Washington, 1814. Heritage Images/Getty Images

It’s an anniversary few seem to want to mark, except the victor

Look around Washington D.C. this summer and you’ll find parades, speeches and shows to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the 100th anniversary of World War I. Heck, there are even exhibits honoring the 25th anniversary of Prague’s Velvet Revolution and the fact the 50 years ago the Beatles first invaded America, to much teenage frenzy.

But what you won’t find are a lot of mentions about the War of 1812’s bicentennial. “Wait,” you may ask, “if it was the War of 1812, why would we celebrate it in 1814?”

“Although it seems rather morbid to celebrate the burning of Washington in the summer of 1814, it was the turning point of the war,” says Leslie Jones, public programs manager at the National Center for White House History at Decatur House, one of a dozen organizations organizing events marking the anniversary. “It was the force that pushed the American side to really come out and push for the victory that culminated in the battle of New Orleans with Andrew Jackson a few months later.”

Perhaps we don’t celebrate The War of 1812 because we started it to get back Canada, which we wound up losing for a second time, along with most of the buildings in the brand new capital. But the War of 1812 is worth commemorating: it cemented America’s identity as nation and it gave us Francis Scott Key’s ode to the Battle of Fort McHenry — also known as the Star Spangled Banner.

“This is an area of history that is so not well known by the broader American public,” says Karen Daly, executive director of Dumbarton House, a historic Washington property that is now a museum. “I find when people visit Dumbarton House, an incredible number of Americans don’t even know this event even happened. They tend to jump from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. This area of history is glossed over in our schooling. And yet, this is what gave us our national anthem and it is very much the event that cemented the union and the democracy. It’s an incredible piece of our history.”

You won’t likely see Michelle Obama reenacting Dolly Madison saving George Washington’s portrait from the burning White House this weekend. But Aug. 24, the actual day of the 200th anniversary of the burning of the White House and the Capitol, will be celebrated in Washington with a 5k run at the Historic Congressional Cemetery, a family festival in Georgetown and a beer festival at Yards Park. And there’s one group that’s really celebrating: the British Embassy, tongue just a little in cheek, will be holding a “White House BBQ . . . on the 200th anniversary of a rather unfortunate event in UK/US relations . . .”

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: August 22

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

‘Direct Invasion’

Russia sent a convoy said to be carrying aid without a Red Cross escort into rebel-held eastern Ukraine on Friday, saying its patience had worn out after delays it blamed on the Ukrainian government, whose security chief told reporters the move was a ‘direct invasion’

How Some People Survive Ebola

Two Americans who became infected with Ebola in Liberia and were evacuated to Atlanta for treatment were discharged and declared virus-free on Thursday

Why ‘Hacktivists’ Are in Ferguson

What the hacker community Anonymous does and how it dealt with the affiliated member who misidentified unarmed teen Michael Brown’s killer

Hamas Leader Admits Israeli Teens’ Kidnap, Killing

A senior Hamas leader has said the group carried out the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in June, which helped spark the current war in Gaza, marking the first time anyone from the Islamic militant group has said it was behind an attack

Access to Screens Is Lowering Kids’ Social Skills

Researchers out of UCLA have highlighted a potential downside of the prevalence of digital data in early development and education, in a study that found kids who were deprived of screens for five days got much better at reading people’s emotions

U.S. Judge Strikes Down Florida’s Gay Marriage Ban

A judge in Tallahassee ruled that the ban added to Florida’s constitution by voters in 2008 violates the 14th Amendment, then issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses will be immediately issued for gay couples

What Bank of America Did to Warrant a $17 Billion Penalty

It’s the largest settlement ever between the U.S. government and a private corporation — restitution for BofA’s role in the financial crisis. Here’s what the Justice Department’s breakdown of the bank’s actions reveals about how bankers inflated the housing bubble

Aaron Paul Plans Breaking Bad Scavenger Hunt for Emmys

Prizes scattered across Hollywood will include signed Breaking Bad scripts, posters, dolls, action figures and art from the show. Paul, who won two Emmys for his role as Jesse on the show in 2010 and 2012, is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor again this year

U.S. Diplomats Banned From Ice Bucket Challenge

Lawyers at the State Department have forbidden U.S. diplomats (like, say, John Kerry) from participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, because of an ethical issue that forbids using public office for private gain — even for a worthy cause

Malaysia Receives First Bodies of MH17 Victims

Malaysia came to a standstill on Friday morning as the remains of its nationals killed on the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 began to arrive home amid a minute of silence. But while many in the nation grieved, others were already focusing on the next step: seeking justice

Mo’ne Davis Draws Record Little League Viewership

Davis might not have thrown a no-hitter on Wednesday, but she did draw the most viewers of a Little League game in ESPN’s history. Nearly 5 million viewers tuned in for the Little League World Series game between Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons and Las Vegas’ Mountain Ridge

You Can Sleep in Ikea for a Night Thanks to Airbnb

Airbnb and Ikea have partnered to allow a group of Australians to sleep in the Scandinavian furniture store for one night only on Aug. 21 in Sydney for a mere 11 Australian dollars. They won’t even have to assemble the beds themselves

Get TIME’s The Brief e-mail every morning in your inbox

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, August 22, at 1 p.m., with TIME Washington correspondent Alex Altman, who has been covering events in Ferguson, Mo., this week and who co-wrote this week’s TIME cover, “The Tragedy of Ferguson.” He covers all things politics, and you can read his recent stories here.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q&A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Diplomats Banned From Ice Bucket Challenge

US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks while releasing the 2013 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom July 28, 2014, at the US State Department in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks while releasing the 2013 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom on July 28, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images

Lawyers say it's an ethical issue

John Kerry will not be dumping ice water over his head and filming it. Lawyers at the State Department have forbidden U.S. diplomats from participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge, a social-media phenomenon raising money and awareness for ALS.

In a cable sent this week to U.S. ambassadors and foreign-service officers, and obtained Thursday by the Associated Press, the lawyers said the it’s an ethical issue.

“There are firmly established rules preventing the use of public office, such as our ambassadors, for private gain, no matter how worthy a cause,” the cable said. “Thus, high-ranking State Department officials are unfortunately unable to participate in the ice bucket challenge. We since wish the ALS Association continued success in its ice bucket campaign, and in its fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

Celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Oprah Winfrey and George W. Bush are among those who have posted videos of themselves dumping freezing cold water on their heads. The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $40 million so far.

[AP]

TIME 2016 Election

Perry Stops in Washington in Wake of Indictment

Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

Texas Gov. Rick Perry called his Aug. 15 indictment on charges that he abused power an “attack on our system of government” during a speech on immigration at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Thursday.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry called his Aug. 15 indictment on charges that he abused power an “attack on our system of government” during a speech on immigration at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Thursday.

Gov.Perry stopped in Washington on his way to New Hampshire less than a week after being indicted by a grand jury in Texas on charges of abuse of power. He said Thursday he was confident in his case and that he aims to “defend our constitution and defend our rule of law in the state of Texas.”

The charges against Perry stem from his veto of $7.5 million worth of funding to the state entity that investigates political corruption, the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, after Travis County’s embattled District Attorney refused to resign in the wake of a drunk driving arrest.

Democrats in Texas have alleged Perry wanted funding cut to the public integrity unit to delay an investigation into mismanagement at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of Perry’s signature programs. In an affidavit released by Perry’s lawyers on Thursday, a former criminal investigator at the Travis County Public Integrity Unit said neither Governor Perry nor anyone from his officer were ever a target in the investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

“Any suggestion that Governor Rick Perry or anyone associated with him was being investigated is untrue; and, based on my investigation, there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that suggests wrongdoing on the part of any individual other than the individual ultimately indicted by a grand jury,” the affidavit reads.

Perry has come across as calm, and at times cheeky, in the face of the charges. The governor presented a slight smile in his mugshot, released Tuesday. After being booked, Perry went out for ice cream. And now, Perry is hitting the road, with scheduled appearances in states that would be crucial if the governor were to run for President in 2016 as expected, including New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina.

Even during his brief remarks in Washington, Perry seemed to be focused mainly on the idea of one day serving as commander-in-chief: following a brief mention of the case against him in his home state, the Governor focused his attention on the crisis at the border, calling it a threat to national security. Perry said there should be no conversation about immigration reform, “until the border is secure.”

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