Grand Jury Indicts Texas Gov. Rick Perry On Charges Of Abusing Power
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
A Grand Jury has indicted Texas Governor Rick Perry on charges of abusing the power of his office. The Grand Jury investigated his threat to veto funding for a state prosecutor. Perry is considered a possible candidate for the 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination. NPR's Wade Goodwyn is with us to talk about the indictment. And Wade, what do the charge allege that Perry did?
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Well, they say that he used the powers of his office to illegally try to coerce the Austin district attorney to resign and then he would have been allowed to replace her. Her office, at the time, was in the middle of an investigation of one of Perry's favorite state agencies. And Perry said, that the DA did not resign. Her name was Rosemary Lehmberg. That he would veto the public integrity unit's budget. That was the unit that was investigating the state agency that was a big favorite of his.
SIEGEL: Isn't there also a dimension here of a drunk driving charge against the district attorney?
GOODWYN: Yes. That's actually what started it all. Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving, pled guilty, there was a very, very embarrassing video and served 45 days. But - and that was the impetuous for the governor to ask her to step down, saying she had lost public confidence. But Lehmberg refused to step down and then Perry vetoed part of her budget.
SIEGEL: You've mentioned the state agency that was favorite of Governor Perry's. What's the agency?
GOODWYN: It's called CPRIT. And it stands for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Basically, it's designed to entice cancer researchers to Texas, the bio-tech industry. And they gave out $3 billion in state grants. But from the beginning the agency was plagued by accusations of confliction of interest and corruption. And that brought the investigation.
SIEGEL: Now, just to be clear Wade, this is a state indictment? Or a federal indictment?
GOODWYN: It is a state indictment. It is an indictment by the Travis County District Attorney's Office.
SIEGEL: That is the very District Attorney's Office that the conflict was with?
GOODWYN: Yes. It's a district attorney that's a democratic district attorney. That's supposed to investigate corruption in a state in which almost all the officials are republican. So that's where the charges of politics come in to this.
SIEGEL: Do other republicans in Texas support Perry's actions against the prosecutor?
GOODWYN: Governor Perry said, that all he was doing was, you know, exercising his constitutional authority to veto appropriations. And that is the republican defense.
SIEGEL: Governor Perry's conflict with this particular prosecutor, does it extend to other areas besides funding for this particular state agency?
GOODWYN: No. I think this was a situation in which, you know, the governor may have seen an opportunity to replace a district attorney who was giving, you know, him some problems. I doubt it ever occurred to him that he could be indicted for coercion.
SIEGEL: Now, all of this plays out against Perry's possible presidential ambitions. You think it comes into play as he considers running for president?
GOODWYN: Yes. It absolutely comes into play. I mean, this does not help. I mean, the governor was riding a wave of enthusiasm after he's deployed the National Guard to the border. And this kind of news only hurts.
SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Wade.
GOODWYN: It's my pleasure.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn reporting on the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry on charges of abusing the power of his office.