Texas Gov. Perry says indictment is abuse of power

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Rick Perry - updated 8/19/2014
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Texas Gov. Perry says indictment is abuse of power

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was booked Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, on two felony counts for allegedly carrying out political threats.

(Image courtesy: Travis County Sheriff's Office)

Texas Governor Rick Perry waits to greet US President Barack Obama in Dallas, Texas, on July 9, 2014 as he arrives for a meeting with local elected officials and faith leaders to discuss the urgent humanitarian situation at the Southwest border. Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to help cope with a surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party made appearances at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party made appearances at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Texas Governor Rick Perry waits to greet US President Barack Obama in Dallas, Texas, on July 9, 2014 as he arrives for a meeting with local elected officials and faith leaders to discuss the urgent humanitarian situation at the Southwest border. Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to help cope with a surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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By PAUL J. WEBER

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed Saturday to fight a criminal indictment in a defiant response that showed an old slice of swagger that he's kept holstered lately while seeking to remake his image for a potential 2016 presidential run.

Perry called two felony counts of abuse of power issued by an Austin grand jury "outrageous" and made no apologies for his 2013 veto that prompted a criminal investigation against the longest-serving governor in Texas history.

Perry made it clear he will finish his term that ends in January and said it was the investigation against him - and not his actions - that amounted to an abuse of power. A Travis County grand jury on Friday indicted Perry for carrying out a threat to veto state funds to the local district attorney, an elected Democrat, who refused to resign following a drunken-driving arrest.

"We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country," Perry told reporters outside his office in the Texas Capitol. "It is outrageous that someone would use political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution."

Perry, the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted, again dismissed the charges as nakedly political and said he would not hesitate to execute a veto under the same circumstances again.

"The details of my decision-making were very clear. I said early on that I was going to clearly veto those dollars as long as they had someone in that office who I had lost confidence in," Perry said. "And I had lost confidence."

Perry's veto cut $7.5 million in funding to the state's ethics watchdog housed in the Travis County district attorney's office. A Texas state judge assigned a special prosecutor to investigate the veto following a formal complaint filed by a left-leaning watchdog group, which accused Perry of trying to leverage his power to force the resignation of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

That unit of public corruption investigators is based in Austin, a liberal haven in mostly conservative Texas and a city that reliably elects Democrats to serve as district attorney.

Perry said he was confident that he would prevail and vowed that those responsible for this "farce of a prosecution" would be held accountable.

Many Democrats criticized Perry's aggressive reaction to the indictment and accused him of trying to shift the blame. Yet state Sen. Wendy Davis, the face of the party in Texas who's running a high-profile campaign for governor, took a more cautious tone Saturday.

"The charges that were brought down by the grand jury are very, very serious," Davis said, adding that she trusted the justice system to do its job.

Tensions between Republicans and the public integrity unit have simmered for years. Conservatives have long grumbled that the unit operates through a partisan lens and targets Republicans.

Former U.S. House Majority Tom DeLay and former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, two Republicans, are among the biggest past names to have been indicted in Travis County on ethics charges. Hutchison was acquitted and an appeals court overturned a guilty verdict against DeLay.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Indicted On Two Felony Charges
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