Gov. Rick Perry is his state’s first governor in nearly a century to be indicted on criminal charges. The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate said the allegations of abuse of power and coercion of a public official are politically motivated.
Here are some questions and answers about the charges:
What started all this?
After Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunken driving in April 2013, Perry threatened to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state’s ethics watchdog unit in her office unless she resigned. Lehmberg is an elected Democrat and Republicans have long accused her public corruption prosecutors of targeting conservatives.
Was Perry allowed to veto the money?
Yes. The governor has line-item veto authority to nix any spending in the state budget.
Then why the grand jury investigation?
Lehmberg refused to resign and Perry vetoed the funding for her office. A left-leaning watchdog group filed a formal complaint that accused Perry of trying to leverage his power and force an elected official from office. A Texas judge then assigned a special prosecutor to investigate.
How strong are the charges against Perry?
He is accused of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant, which are both felonies and carry possible prison sentences. But legal experts and even some Democrats believe getting a conviction will be challenging, largely because there is no question that Perry wields veto authority. They say proving this went beyond hardball politics will be a difficult bar for prosecutors to reach.
What’s next for Perry?
The longest-serving governor in Texas history didn’t seek re-election and will step down in January after 14 years in office. He’s expected to be formally arraigned in an Austin court as early as next week and has given no indication the charges will stop him from considering another run for the White House. But having the word indictment associated with Perry could tarnish his image if he decides to seek the presidency.