Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday vowed to continue his fight to win exoneration a day after a judge handed the possible presidential aspirant a setback in the criminal case alleging he abused his gubernatorial veto powers.
Perry, who has upped his visibility in the 2016 chase for the GOP presidential nomination, insisted Wednesday that he had acted "lawfully and legally" in vetoing $7.5 million in state funding for the Public Integrity Unit in the office of Travis County Dist. Atty. Rosemary Lehmberg. The veto came after Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign following a drunken driving conviction.
"Given the choice, I would make the same decision again today," Perry told reporters in Austin, Texas, at a televised news conference. "Make no mistake, this prosecution sets a dangerous precedent in our country, and it directly targets the authority of every governor's office in the nation." he said.
In August, a grand jury indicted Perry on charges including abuse of official power and coercion of a public servant.
On Tuesday, state District Judge Bert Richardson rejected Perry's arguments that he had acted within his power as governor and that the criminal case should be dismissed as unconstitutional.
His attorneys on Wednesday again said they will appeal Richardson's ruling.
"I will continue this fight and am confident I will ultimately prevail," Perry said.
Perry insisted this legal battle will not derail his political efforts.
"Americans are looking for a leader that is not afraid to stand up, not afraid to stand up and be a leader," Perry said. "We're moving right along as we have intended to, and we will make a decision — or make an announcement, as a better descriptive term – in the May-June timetable, just like we had intended to before this."
While not unexpected, the judge's refusal to toss the indictment against Perry was a blow to the former governor's planning, meaning that he will have to continue to defend himself as he mounts a campaign for president.
As his term wound down to his Jan. 20 departure, Perry ramped up his presidential travel. He appeared nearly two weeks ago at a Republican National Committee meeting in Coronado, Calif., an audience of important party leaders from around the country. On Saturday he courted conservative Iowans at a Des Moines gathering sponsored by the Citizens United political group and Rep. Steve King. He has also invited policy specialists to Texas to tutor him, and traveled overseas.
Perry argues that Texas' economic success during his 14-year-plus tenure serves as a template for a stronger national recovery, and he has also pointed to his public denunciations of President Obama's border policy as a rationale for support in 2016.
He continues, however, to suffer the after-effects of his disastrous first campaign, when he entered the race in 2011 as a front runner and disintegrated with his debate performances. In the worst of them, he was unable to remember the third of three federal departments he wanted to excise, and memorably ended his comments with "Oops."
In an October speech at the Reagan Library, he blamed a difficult recovery from back surgery and a lack of preparation for the rigors of a presidential contest.
"I was probably a little arrogant — 'I've been elected governor of Texas three times, what can be harder than that' — right?" he said then. "The process of preparation, to be considered for the presidency, is a long and substantive path. I did not do that in 2011-12, and I would suggest I paid a pretty substantive price for that."