Perry: Indictments 'Not the Way That We Settle...Political Differences in This Country'

By Susan Jones | August 18, 2014 | 6:14 AM EDT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a news conference on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Austin, Texas.  (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez)

( - Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, says his indictment on two felony accounts of abusing his power is nothing more than a politically motivated attempt to discredit him.

"This is not the way that we settle differences, political differences, in this country. You don't do it with indictments. We settle our political differences at the ballot box," Perry told "Fox News Sunday."

The indictments allege that Gov. Perry "misused government property" and "by means of coercion" tried to get Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, an elected official, to quit her job after she was arrested and convicted of drunk driving.

Lehmberg heads the county's public corruption unit, and Perry vetoed funding for her office when she refused to resign.

"I think it's important for people to understand the details of this," Perry told Fox News's Shannon Bream. "And the D.A., the highest ranking prosecutor in Travis County, who also has oversight for state officials -- this individual was stopped driving while drunk. She had almost three times the legal limit of alcohol, .238 I believe is what it was.

"When you look at the video, not only of the stop, if you look at the video of Ms. Lehmberg when she was being booked into the county jail, the abusiveness, she was kicking on the door. She was abusing the law officials. She had to be restrained.

"And when you look at that and you have to make a decision on whether or not $7.5 million of Texas taxpayer money is going to go to the unit that she oversees, I very clearly -- I very publicly said as long as that individual is going to be running that agency, I had lost confidence in her. The public had lost confidence in her, and I did what every governor has done for decades, which is make a decision on whether or not it was in the proper use of state money to go to that agency, and I vetoed it.

"That's what the rule of law is really about, Shannon. And I stood up for the rule of law in the state of Texas, and if I had to do it again, I would make exactly the same decision."

Perry, who apparently is mulling another run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, noted that even some liberal Democrats, including Obama adviser David Axelrod, have called the indictment "pretty sketchy."

Craig McDonald, whose complaint triggered the indictment, says Perry had no right to try to force Lehmberg out of office. McDonald heads the group Texans for Public Justice, which has filed complaints against other high-ranking Republicans, including George W. Bush and former House Republican leader Tom DeLay.

"It's not his decision whether or not the district attorney from Travis County resigns," Perry told CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley.

"The governor is doing a pretty good job to try to make this about her and her DWI conviction. But this has never been about his veto of her budget (or) about her. This is about his abuse of power and his coercion trying to get another public citizen to give up their job. So, it's not about the veto.

McDonald said the indictments "are all about him using his official office to intimidate another public servant. Yes, the veto played a role but the role of the veto was what he hung over her head, Rosemary Lehmberg's head as a....stick to get her to step down."

Crowley noted that Lehmberg never did resign, so Perry's veto did nothing more than "register his disapproval."

"We believe he had the right to veto," McDonald replied. "It was about the intimidation before the veto. It was about him using the veto as a coercion tactic to get her to do something she didn't want to do, which was quit her job."

McDonald said Perry "strayed" when he tried to "bully" Lehmberg out of office. "So that was the harm here, it was not the veto itself."

McDonald also said Republican judges were the ones who decided the case had merit.