A steamed Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Saturday decried a Travis County grand jury's indictment of him on two felony counts, saying allegations that he abused his power by threatening to veto funding for the state's anti-corruption unit were politically motivated.
"We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country," Perry said in a short press conference.
"It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state’s constitution. This indictment amounts to nothing more than abuse of power and I cannot and I will not allow that to happen."
Perry — who followed through on the threat because Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who had pleaded guilty to drunken driving, refused his request to step down — said his actions were protected by the state Constitution, and that he and his attorneys would aggressively fight the charges.
They include abuse of official capacity, which carries a potential penalty of five to 99 years in prison, and coercion of a public servant, which has a penalty of two to 10 years.
"I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes and I intend to win," he said.
"I’ll explore every legal avenue to expedite this matter. I am confident that we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is. And those responsible will be held accountable."
The legal inquiry began last summer after an ethics complaint was filed alleging that Perry had improperly used a veto to deny funding for the unit, which is housed in the Travis County district attorney’s office and focuses on government corruption and tax fraud.
The indictment seriously complicates Perry's possible presidential ambitions and casts a pall on what had been a few big weeks for the Texas governor.
He had made national headlines for railing against the Obama administration for a perceived lack of response to the humanitarian crisis on the Texas-Mexico border, then reallocating funds to send National Guard troops there himself.
Now, he's in the spotlight for being the first Texas governor indicted in almost a century.
Michael McCrum, the special investigator in the case, said he expected that the governor would come to court, be arraigned and be given official notice of his charges sometime in the coming week.