TIME 2016 Election

Perry Says 2016 Plans ‘Moving Right Along’ Despite Indictment

Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015.
Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015. Jim Young—Reuters

Still expects to announce a run in May or June.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said his plans to run for president in 2016 are “moving right along” despite a Texas judge’s decision Tuesday not to throw out a pair of indictments against him.

A Texas grand jury indicted the then-governor in August on two abuse-of-power charges which claim he violated the law when he threatened and ultimately vetoed funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s office following a high-profile drunk driving arrest for its district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. The longest-serving Texas governor and his legal team argue the charges are baseless and amount to a “criminalization of politics,” and Perry reiterated Wednesday that he’d do it again if he had the chance.

On Tuesday, a judge poked holes in the prosecution’s indictment, but declined to throw out the two charges, saying he was unable to do so before trial. Perry’s legal team is filing an appeal of that decision, an effort expected to take several months.

Perry, who ran for the White House unsuccessfully in 2012, has been laying the groundwork for a repeat bid for more than two years, traveling heavily to the early presidential states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to support local candidates and build a network of supporters. He said in a press conference that his plans are continuing despite the ongoing criminal proceedings against him.

“We’re going to continue on,” he told reporters, suggesting that the prosecution would bolster his argument to voters. ” Americans are looking for a leader who’s not afraid of standing up, who won’t be intimidated.”

Perry indicated he has already made a decision to seek the White House, and is planning an announcement in the spring.

“We’ll make a decision—or, actually, make an announcement, it’s a better term—in the May, June timetable just like we intended to,” Perry said Wednesday.

After the indictment, Perry’s political team sold t-shirts showing his smiling booking photo with the slogan “Wanted: For securing the border and defeating Democrats” on one side, and Lehmberg’s less-glamorous one and the text: “Guilty: driving while intoxicated and the perversion of justice.”

Likely GOP rivals, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Govs. Chris Christie Scott Walker, released statements Tuesday in support of Perry.

 

TIME 2016 Election

Jindal Blurs the Lines With Prayer Rally This Weekend

Bobby Jindal
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. speaks in New York on Oct. 16, 2014. John Minchillo—AP

It is no secret that Bobby Jindal is praying very seriously about a run for the White House. This weekend, his prayer will look a lot like a giant evangelical rally in Baton Rouge.

The governor of Louisiana is keynoting a six-hour worship gathering on Saturday called “The Response: A Call To Prayer For a Nation In Crisis” at Louisiana State University. The event, sponsored by the conservative and controversial American Family Association, aims to spiritually reawaken America in light of “unprecedented struggles” the country is facing: “financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters … fatherless homes, an epidemic of drugs and crime in our inner cities, a saturation of pornography in our homes, abortion, and racism.” The American Renewal Project, a non-profit spearheaded by conservative political operative David Lane that aims to get more Christians involved in politics, is also behind the event. Lane hopes to recruit 1,000 pastors to run for political office this campaign cycle. The Response coincides with the state’s Right to Life March, which is also happening Saturday on LSU’s campus and which Jindal is also keynoting. Together, the events are poised to draw thousands.

Organizers say the Response is purely about spiritual renewal, not politics. But from the get-go, those lines are blurred. Jindal invited 49 other governors to attend the Response. “This gathering will be apolitical in nature and open to all who would like to join us in humble posture before our Creator to intervene on behalf of our people and nation,” Jindal explained to the governors, in a letter obtained by the Christian Broadcasting Network. “There will only be one name lifted up that day–Jesus!”

The irony in the event has several layers. To begin, Jindal’s invitation to the governors, like most of the Response’s promotional materials, draws inspiration only from passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians call the Old Testament, to support an event aimed at lifting up Jesus Christ. His letter primarily cites the Hebrew prophet Joel, who likely lived in Judah during the Persian period of Jewish history (539-331 BC). Joel tells the Hebrew people to “declare a holy fast,” “call a solemn assembly,” and “summon the elders,” to “cry out to the Lord.” The Response organizers are trying to imitate those instructions with this event, but conflating Joel’s call to return to the Hebrew God with a contemporary evangelical call to return to Jesus changes the prophet’s original context and the significance of the words for today’s Jewish community.

Next, for the Hebrew prophet Joel, to call the elders is actually a political move, not just a spiritual one. The prophet goes on to lament a plague of locusts, that like an invading army that has destroyed his own nation’s fields and farming prospects. His call to God for aid is a political plea on behalf of his people. Jindal and fellow organizers are using a political Bible passage to promote an event that they say has a solely spiritual ambition. And yet, even as Jindal says the event is apolitical, he wrote an open invitation to the event on official state letterhead, and hosted 72 organizers for the event at the Governor’s mansion in December.

Perhaps most importantly, the Response in the United States is becoming more than a spiritual institution: It is a prelude to a presidential run. Five days after Rick Perry held a Response rally in August of 2011, he declared his candidacy for president. Neither Perry nor Jindal are evangelicals—Perry is a life-long Methodist and Jindal is Catholic—but for both, the Response event is a way to harness the spirituality of the conservative evangelical base for their own political ambitions. It is no small reward, either. Perry’s event drew some 30,000 people in Houston.

The Response may be the largest religious base Jindal is courting, but it is not the only one. After the Response, Jindal is headed to Naples to speak at the Legatus Summit, a annual conference for Catholic business leaders. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is speaking at the event, but Fox News’ Bret Baier and actor Gary Sinise withdrew their participation earlier this month due to controversy over the group’s opposition to gay marriage.

It is not surprising that Jindal would appeal to this conservative religious base. He is a Hindu convert and a Rhodes scholar biology major who supports creationism. He’s continually fought the courts and the Obama administration for his signature school voucher program that uses public dollars to pay for private and religious schooling. This week, he went after the U.S. House of Representatives for failing to pass an anti-abortion measure on the eve of the national March for Life. “It shouldn’t take a lot of political courage to stand up and say we are going to end late-term abortions in America,” Jindal told Fox News Thursday night.

Jindal has also been hammering radical Islam. During a 10-day economic and foreign policy trip to Europe, Jindal blasted so-called “no-go” zones, supposed communities in Europe where non-Muslims are not allowed and where sharia law runs rampant. Fox News later issued an apology for promoting the term, clarifying that no such zones exist. Jindal didn’t slow down. “Radical Islamists do not believe in freedom or common decency nor are they willing to accommodate them in any way and anywhere,” he said in a speech to the Henry Jackson Society in London. “We are fools to pretend otherwise. How many Muslims in this world agree with these radicals? I have no idea, I hope it is a small minority.” He added: “Let’s be honest here, Islam has a problem. If Islam does not support what is happening in the name of Islam, then they need to stand up and stop it.”

Jindal’s past history of blending of religious and political themes only makes it even more clear that the Response will not be strictly spiritual, despite what organizers say.

TIME Drugs

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Lower Marijuana Possession Penalties

File picture shows marijuana plants at a indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Marijuana plants are seen at a indoor cultivation. Andres Stapff—Reuters

A new bill would make the possession of up to one oz. punishable with a $100 ticket

On Monday, Texas State Rep. Joe Moody introduced a bill that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Moody said in a statement. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

Under current Texas law, possessing up to two oz. of weed can yield six months of jail time and a $2,000 penalty. Under the proposal, adults caught with up to one oz. would get a $100 ticket, similar to a parking violation. Larger amounts would still lead to criminal penalties. The measure would make Texas the 20th state plus the District of Columbia to remove the threat of jail time for the possession of small amounts of weed.

The bill is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the pro-legalization group that spearheaded the passage of Colorado’s historic legalization measure. The bill is also the first in a series that the MPP expects to be introduced in Texas this year, the next attempting to legalize medical marijuana and the third attempting to legalize recreational marijuana.

The latter two are long shots, and the first won’t be an easy sell to the Republican-controlled legislature. Texas Governor Rick Perry has said he opposes legalization. He has intimated that he supports decriminalizing weed, but has also said that the state has “kind of done that.” In 2007, Texas passed a measure giving local governments the power to respond to marijuana possession with a summons rather than an arrest, but few counties have adopted it and someone issued a summons may still end up in jail.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, another pro-legalization group, says that Texas is in a tier of states that are the least likely to ease marijuana restrictions. These “third tier” states, he says, are ones in which “the legislature has never shown any want to move in this direction and/or there is an executive at the top who is going to oppose and veto any reforms.”

A poll commissioned by MPP in 2013 found that 61% of Texas residents would support a penalty reduction like the one Moody is proposing, while 58% would support the legalization of medical and recreational weed.

At a press conference on Monday, Moody was joined by representatives from other groups who support the bill, such as the ACLU of Texas and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Support from such libertarian-leaning conservatives will be crucial in the heavily Republican state.

“Texas doesn’t seem to be ready for a full legal market,” acknowledges Heather Fazio, a representative for MPP in Texas. “That doesn’t mean that the conversation shouldn’t be happening.”

TIME 2016 Election

Republican Governors Blast President Obama’s Immigration Plans

Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a conservative rally in Smithfield, N.C. on Oct. 24, 2014. Gerry Broome—AP

Without any announced candidacies, Republican governors appear to be jockeying for position in 2016

BOCA RATON, Fla.

As President Barack Obama prepares to announce executive action on immigration reform in a Thursday evening primetime address to the nation, he is already facing criticism from many of his would-be replacements.

At the annual retreat of the Republican Governors Association, a cohort of governors eyeing bids at the White House blasted Obama’s planned announcement even as they were silent on any counter-proposals to address the President’s concerns. The immigration debate, operatives in both parties say, is likely to be front-and-center in 2016.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence called Obama’s forthcoming announcement a “profound mistake.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called it “the height of arrogance for this president to go around the Congress.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said someone should sue to stop it. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that his state would.

But the governors were by-and-large loath to offer their own vision for how to address the nation’s immigration issues. In 2013, after the party’s 2012 defeat, the Republican National Committee identified immigration reform as a must-pass issue for the GOP. But the GOP successfully bet on an older, whiter electorate in 2014 to justify the delay internally. House Republicans have refused to take up a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013, a move that Obama has said prompted his unilateral action.

The only apparent consensus among the governors was that Obama was going down the wrong path and should first deal with securing the border. “You will not get Americans to support an immigration reform bill until—not together, but until—the border is secure,” Perry said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would wait to see what Obama announced before weighing in. “We will have to wait and see what he says and what he does and what the legal implications are,” he said.

The governors encouraged congressional Republicans to avoid a government funding show-down this December over Obama’s immigration actions, saying a shutdown would be counterproductive. Christie said he has “confidence” in Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell can keep the government open. “All this kind of hysteria about shutdown to me is just people wanting to make news,” Christie added. “I wouldn’t push a shutdown, I think you go to court,” Walker said.

Pence called on Republicans to use the budget process to push back against Obama’s action. “The president has an opportunity now to work with the Congress after it convenes in January and to find a piece-by-piece approach in dealing with the issue of immigration reform,” he said. “The power of the Congress is the power of the purse.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday the action would affect “millions,” while advocates familiar with the action say roughly five million will be affected.

Asked about specific immigration reform proposals, Christie repeatedly declined to weigh in. “If I run [for president], we’ll see,” he said. “If I were to run for president, I would then articulate the basis for my candidacy.”

Only Kasich explicitly stated he was open to a pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. “I’m open to it, I will tell you that,” he said.

“There already is a path to citizenship in this country and I would suggest it shouldn’t be changed,” Perry said, breaking with Kasich.

TIME 2016 Election

The Starting Gun: Your Guide to the 2016 GOP Primary Field

Too soon? The candidates have been preparing campaigns for months

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has been working for years to bring order to the 2016 nominating process. He’s increased penalties for states that try to move up their primaries and caucuses, threatened to punish candidates who participate in debates not sanctioned by the party, and moved the convention to mid-summer, allowing for a longer general election season.

But Priebus has no control over who decides to run. And as the starting gun sounds on 2016, all signs point to another unwieldy pack of candidates competing, in many cases, for the same segments of their party.

Here is a look at the top contenders openly considering a run.

Jeb Bush: The Other Son

Jeb Bush
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Hollywood, Fla. on Jan. 29, 2014. Wilfredo Lee—AP

At a recent event in Washington, former President George W. Bush made a pitch for his brother’s candidacy before a group of skeptical GOP donors. “What’s the difference if it’s Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton or Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Bush?” he said. That’s the question many Republicans are asking as they look to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to enter the race. His family is rallying around. His donor ties remain deep. The question is whether he has a path to the nomination. Out of office for more than a decade, the avowed immigration and education reformer now finds himself out of step with his party’s most conservative voters. But he has a case to make that he was born to take on Hillary Clinton.

Scott Walker: The Main Street Fighter

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks in Milwaukee on May 3, 2014. Jeffrey Phelps—AP

No one got louder cheers at the 2012 Republican convention than Wisconsin Gov. Walker, the man who had taken on what he likes to call the “big government union bosses” in his state and won. Collective bargaining rights were curtailed for state teachers and other workers, and Walker survived a union-backed effort to recall him. This year’s reelection tight at times, but he pulled off a victory. Now he can focus on the message he has been trying to hone as a candidate on the national level. He will present himself as a common-sense Republican from Main Street—far from the dysfunction of Washington.

Rand Paul: The Reinventor

Georgia Senate Candidate David Perdue Campaigns With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to an audience of supporters of Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue during a campaign stop in McDonough, Ga. on Oct. 24, 2014. Jessica McGowan—Getty Images

No modern Republican nomination fight would be complete without a Paul on the stage, but the next generation of the political dynasty doesn’t look or talk like the last. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been touring the country with his new vision for growing the party with “libertarianish” ideas that appeal beyond the current GOP base. “The Republican Party brand sucks,” he said on a recent visit to Detroit, a line that is certain to reemerge again. His father, Ron Paul, ran as a principled prophet, uninterested in doing the difficult work of building a winning coalition. The same cannot be said for the son.

Mike Pence: The Stalwart

Mike Pence
9, 2014, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence answers questions in Indianapolis on Sept. 9, 2014. Michael Conroy—AP

A Midwestern governor with years in House leadership under his belt, Pence has standing with social conservatives, fiscal credibility and deep ties to the party’s money men, especially the Koch fundraising network. He’s also got a feel for the national mood—note his quick and early decision to pull Indiana out of the Common Core state standards—and a slashing style on the stump honed by stints in talk radio. Pence would have to overcome questions about his decision to expand Medicaid in Indiana, but count him as a sleeper threat.

Rick Santorum: The Believer

Rick Santorum
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks during The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on Aug. 9, 2014. Charlie Neibergall—AP

With little money, no pollster and few staff, Santorum spent months crisscrossing Iowa in 2011, fueled by faith that his candidacy would catch on. And it did. The former Pennsylvania senator pulled an upset in the caucuses and went on to win 11 states, finishing runner-up in the nominating contest to Mitt Romney. Now Santorum, who’s been running a Christian movie studio, sounds ready to try again with a campaign that would marry his religious conservatism to an economic message geared toward blue-collar populists. Pundits have written him off again, but there is no sign his faith is wavering.

Ted Cruz: The Evangelist

Values Voters Summit
Sen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas) at the 2014 Value Voters Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014. Mark Peterson/Redux

Blessed with a supple mind and silver tongue, the Texas freshman became the Senate’s foremost spokesman for Tea Party values after he won election in 2012. A push to defund Obamacare made Cruz a superstar in conservative circles, and he’s been touring the country for more than a year, laying the groundwork for his next campaign. He sells a back-to-basics, no-apology conservatism, with policies wrapped in the rhetoric of right and wrong. And he trashes his Republican colleagues almost as much as Democrats. The fiery rhetoric has burned some of the bridges he’ll need on the way to the nomination, but nobody is better at preaching to the frustrated party faithful. The question now is whether he can convert unbelievers as well.

Chris Christie: The Tough Talker

Governor Chris Christie is Reelected to a Second Term
New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie celebrates his reelection in Asbury Park, N.J. on Nov. 5, 2013. Brooks Kraft—Corbis

After a 2013 landslide reelection election in a blue state, the take-no-bull governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was considered a frontrunner. He had taken on teacher’s unions and public pensions while balancing the budget and creating jobs. Then allegations surfaced that his staff closed down lanes on the George Washington Bridge for political retribution, and ratings agencies started delivering bad news about his state’s finances. Christie never stopped trudging forward, and he has yet to curb his abrasive stump persona, which could become a problem in the heckler-filled primary state. But as Chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, with lots of New York area donors in his pocket, he will certainly be a contender.

Rick Perry: The Do-Over

Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a conservative rally in Smithfield, N.C. on Oct. 24, 2014. Gerry Broome—AP

“Oops.” That one word killed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign, a clumsy, last-minute shot at the nomination from the start. But he has persevered, making repeated trips to the early primary states as his governorship winds down. This time around, with a new pair of glasses, Perry is out to show that he’s smarter than you may think. Thus far he’s been winning rave reviews, despite a recent indictment on two felony charges for allegedly abusing his power in pressuring a local district attorney to resign. Perry’s a long shot in 2016, but he’s keen to rewrite his political obituary.

Marco Rubio: The Next Generation

Senator Rubio speaks on the economy
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio speaks on strategies for sparking economic growth in Washington on March 10, 2014. Brooks Kraft—Corbis

Marco Rubio has made a career as the fresh face with an all-American story, the “son of exiles” who lived the dream of hard work and upward mobility. In 2010, that message won statewide in Florida, and Rubio has been carefully building the legislative record of a presidential candidate. He backed bipartisan immigration reform, before blaming its failure on Democrats, and has spent months laying out a hawkish vision of foreign policy far closer to John McCain than Rand Paul. Whether he makes a comeback depends on which end of the Republican Party wins its existential struggle on immigration reform. But Rubio remains popular with young and minority voters that other Republicans struggle to reach.

Mike Huckabee: The Pastor

Conservative Political Action Conference
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., March 7, 2014. Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Eight years ago, Mike Huckabee was an Arkansas Governor with no money or political machine, betting bible-belt charisma and conservative populism could make him President. His 2008 campaign won Iowa, showed in New Hampshire and placed in South Carolina. It also earned him a TV show on Fox News, which Republican primary voters have been watching each Saturday nights for six years. With the new national profile and a heap of lessons learned, he has begun to bring his hardscrabble campaign crew back together, with an eye at trying again, this time with the money and organization he needs. He spent his youth as a radio and television broadcaster, and few are more comfortable before a camera. Watch for him in the debates.

Bobby Jindal: The Wonk

Bobby Jindal
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Oct. 6, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

The fast-talking Louisiana Gov. got off to a rough start on the national stage in 2009, when he delivered a lumbering response to President Barack Obama’s first address to the nation. But Jindal is hoping to reintroduce himself to the nation as the party’s ideas man. Warning that the GOP needs to stop being the “stupid party,” Jindal has been most aggressive among 2016 contenders at putting policy proposals up front, and has proven to be an influencer with GOP candidates nationwide. In moves meant to please the base Jindal embraced the cast of Duck Dynasty and flip-flopped on Common Core education standards. Look for him to push his opponents to lay out specific policy plans—if he can get noticed.

John Kasich: The Pragmatist

John Kasich
Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks to supporters at Darke County GOP headquarters in Greenville, Ohio on Oct. 13, 2014. Al Behrman—AP

Just two years ago, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was politically down for the count. His popularity plummeted as he tried to revamp the state’s collective bargaining rules and he earned the ire of conservatives for embracing Medicaid expansion from Obamacare. But on Tuesday, Kasich, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, pulled off a massive victory in the swingiest of swing states that has the 2016 bells ringing. Kasich made an early unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2000, and is likely to let the field develop this time around before making any decisions. If he does run, expect him to highlight his state’s economic recovery and his education reform plans.

TIME ebola

Rick Perry Wants to Ban Air Travel From West Africa Amid Ebola Outbreak

Rick Perry
Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, delivers the keynote address at a Heritage Foundation event titled "The Border Crisis and New Politics of Immigration," August 21, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

He joins a growing list of politicians calling for such a ban

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday called on the federal government to impose a ban on air travel from the West African countries hardest hit by Ebola, joining a growing list of politicians supporting such a travel restriction.

Perry reasoned a ban is the right move given that the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, traveled from Ebola-ridden Liberia to eventually reach Texas, the Associated Press reports. The governor’s call for travel restrictions is a reversal of his stance from just 10 days ago when he said an enhanced medical screening process would be more effective at keeping Ebola out of the country.

“The impact from banning flights from these areas is not going to be an efficient way to deal with this,” Perry said last week, according to The Hill. Referring to a travel ban, Perry added, “There are some that would make the argument that it would [hamper the fight against Ebola].”

Several prominent Republican politicians in particular, including Mitt Romney, have called for flight restrictions, but many health officials say that such a ban would only hurt efforts to contain the disease.

[AP]

TIME 2016 Election

Rick Perry Disavows Tweet Calling Democratic D.A. a Drunk

Rick Perry Discusses Immigration And Border Crisis In Washington DC
Texas Governor Rick Perry delivers remarks about immigration at The Heritage Foundation August 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

'I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down'

Texas Governor Rick Perry deleted an “unauthorized” tweet sent out from his official account on Sunday evening, that included a mocking image of a district attorney who is involved in a criminal indictment against the governor.

“I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down,” Perry tweeted from his official account. The removed tweet included an image of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg surrounded by beer bottles with a derisive comment about her drunk driving conviction in 2013.

Lehmberg refused to resign after the conviction, prompting Perry to withhold funding from her office until she stepped down. An indictment last month held that Perry’s maneuver might constitute a possible “abuse of power,” a charge the governor contests is based on a vague and outdated law.

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.”

TIME States

Rick Perry Digs in for a Fight

Texas Governor Rick Perry acknowledges the crowd after being finger printed at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on Aug. 19, 2014 in Austin.
Texas Governor Rick Perry acknowledges the crowd after being finger printed at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on Aug. 19, 2014 in Austin. Stewart F. House—Getty Images

2016 presidential hopeful pleads not guilty in abuse-of-power case

Rick Perry isn’t going quietly. In fact, he says he’s not going anywhere at all.

The Texas governor pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the abuse-of-power case against him, waiving a formal arraignment that had been scheduled for Friday and signaling again his readiness to fight a prosecution that he has decried as a “farce.” This after Perry, who just days ago was barnstorming Iowa as he weighs a 2016 presidential bid, strode up to the Austin courthouse here on Tuesday to be booked and fingerprinted—and looking every bit the congenial, confident, quintessentially-Texan politician he has played with success for 30 years.

“I’m here today because I believe in the rule of law,” Perry said after having his mugshot taken Tuesday for booking.

“Like a true West Texan, in the face of adversity Rick Perry is doubling down and meeting his critics head on,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said. “Unlike most politicians facing indictments, Perry is reaching out to the media as opposed to running away from it.”

That approach led Perry’s lawyers to hold a briefing on Monday at an Austin hotel, unveiling a stellar team of star lawyers, and advising the media well in advance Tuesday that the governor would be turning himself in for the obligatory mugshot. After the booking, like the good Texan that he is, Perry made a point to thank the Travis County sheriff’s deputies who booked him—evoking a contrast with the torrent of abuse an intoxicated Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg unleashed on deputies and jail guards when she was booked on a DUI charge in April, 2013.

Perry’s response to a video of Lehmberg’s tirade, which prompted calls for her resignation from both Democrats and Republicans, is at the heart of the indictment against him last week. Prosecutors say he abused his power by threatening to veto funds for the Public Intergrity Unit she heads if she didn’t resign, an assertion that Perry and even some liberals have warned constitutes prosecutorial overreach into policing even the most basic posturing in modern politics. But Lehmberg is also at the center of Perry’s public relations strategy so far.

“If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the public integrity unit again,” Perry told a cheering crowd of supporters Tuesday. “I’m going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being. And we will prevail.”

For Perry, this is a black hat-white hat YouTube range war, with a vodka-guzzling, out-of-control, drunken Democratic prosecutor on one side and a self-styled champion of the people and the rule of law on the other. Perry’s political action committee, RickPAC, unveiled a new ad Tuesday featuring, of course, the Lehmberg video.

“Governor Perry’s public relations strategy is to present this indictment as one blow, low and foul, in an ongoing fight between a disgraced, partisan, Democratic, district attorney and a Republican governor fighting for common decency, the rule of law, and the sanctity of the Texas Constitution,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University and longtime observer of Texas politics. “This framing is working pretty well, especially among Republican leaders and activists, but it is at best a short term strategy that will be of no use at all if the case goes to trial.”

Perry’s only hope of remaining a viable presidential candidate for 2016 is to get the charges dismissed before trial, Jillson said. “But if he goes to trial, there will be weeks of testimony from Austin insiders describing in most unappetizing terms precisely how the political sausage was made,” Jillson said. “If that happens, it will make Chris Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’ troubles look like a walk in the park.”

Some Democrats have pressed the argument that Perry’s attempt to dethrone Lehmberg was aimed at derailing an investigation into connections between Perry campaign contributors and the Cancer Prevention and Research Insitute of Texas (CPRIT). But other Democrats see the indictment as baseless, including David Botsford, a prominent Travis County Democrat and a member of Perry’s legal team. He was the first to greet Perry at the podium with a handshake and an embrace Tuesday.

Perry’s legal team is a mix of colorful, political, heavyweight and well-connected lawyers. Botsford is regarded as a top criminal lawyer in Texas, but also someone who knows the inner workings and politics of the Travis County courthouse. Lead lawyer Tony Buzbee, who said the Perry prosecution is an example of “banana republic politics,” is a charismatic Houston plaintiff’s attorney. Also on the team are two star Washington attorneys—Ben Ginsberg, who represented President George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount, and Bobby Burchfield who has led the Republican National Committee’s successful legal fight against a key campaign finance law. The goal is likely to get the indictment thrown out as quickly as possible, and to get the case moved out of Travis County, where the judges and the majority of jurors are Democrats

While Perry’s stellar legal team plots the maneuvers ahead, Perry needs to focus on a different jury, political analysts say. “The principal problem for Perry is not so much how the indictment is being viewed by Republican caucus and primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere, but rather the doubts it is creating about Perry’s political future among major donors as well as political elites whose endorsements Perry needs to be viable, especially in the early caucus and primary states,” Jones said.

“Both the donors and elites are thinking far more about the long game of winning not only the GOP primary, but especially the general election, and are quite likely to view the indictment, regardless of merit, as a significant political liability,” Jones said. “If Perry cannot get the charged dismissed, the indictment will be a dark cloud following any Perry 2016 presidential campaign.”

TIME justice

Rick Perry Booked in Politically Charged Abuse of Power Case

Rick Perry Mugshot
Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets booked on abuse of power charges at the Travis County Sheriff's Department in Austin, on Aug. 19, 2014. Travis County Sheriff's Department

The Texas governor faces two felony charges

Texas Gov. Rick Perry turned himself in at the Travis County Courthouse Tuesday on two felony charges of abuse of power.

Perry, who has vowed to contest the charges stemming from a threat and ultimate veto of funding to the state’s public integrity unit, surrendered himself to Sheriff’s deputies to be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken. Perry is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.

Outside the courthouse, Perry allies protested the indictment handed down by a grand jury Friday evening. “I am here today because I believe in the rule of law,” Perry told a crowd of cheering supporters before entering the courthouse. “And I am here today because I did the right thing.”

Perry was indicted for threatening and then ultimately vetoing funding for the unit after its head, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated. Perry demanded that Lehmberg resign and, when she refused, vetoed the funding.

“I am going to enter this courthouse with my head held high knowing the actions I took were not only lawful and legal, but also right,” he added.

The governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate has hired a high-priced legal team and deployed his political machine in his defense, which has become a rallying point for Republicans across the country. Democrats, including former Obama strategist David Axelrod, have also expressed doubts about the merits of the prosecution.

Perry cast the criminal complaint as “an attack on our system of government,” arguing it was well within his rights to veto the funding. “If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the public integrity unit again,” he said.

“I’m going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being,” Perry said before turning to enter the courthouse. “And we will prevail.”

Perry’s political action committee, RickPAC, released a new video defending the veto Tuesday.

After he left the courthouse, Perry tweeted that he went to purchase an ice cream cone.

 

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