Perry Hires Former McCain Consultant

Gov. Rick Perry has now added a seventh person to the team tasked with handling his indictment. Politico is reporting that Perry hired former John McCain adviser Steve Schmidt. Schmidt is a big-dollar campaign strategist and was an instrumental member of McCain’s team during his presidential run. (You may recall he was played by Woody Harrelson in the HBO movie “Game Change.”)

Perry has already hired six high-powered attorneys to aid his defense. Houston trial lawyer Tony Buzbee is leading the team. He is joined by Austin attorney David Botsford, who represented Perry during the grand jury proceedings, and Ben Ginsburg, who is famous for his work with the Florida recount during the 2000 presidential elections.

Yesterday, Perry’s lawyers filed a motion to have the felony charges dismissed. The 60-page brief argues the charges are unconstitutional. Special prosecutor Michael McCrum, however, remains confident that Perry will go to trail.

Gov. Perry is charged with abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. The charges stem from the 2013 legislative session, when Perry warned he would cut funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not step down following a drunk driving conviction. Perry pointed to an embarrassing post-arrest video as grounds for his request. He followed through and slashed the $7.5 million when she refused to resign.

Perry’s attorneys claim his veto explanation falls under his first amendment right to free speech, as well as separation of powers in government. Attorneys also claim the statute being used to prosecute the governor for abuse of power is flawed.

 

 

 

Capital Tonight: Understanding Gov. Perry’s Legal Strategy

Governor Perry’s attorneys are moving quickly to dismiss the felony charges against him and get the case thrown out of court entirely. In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we got a look at their first legal move and heard from a St. Mary’s law professor Gerald Reamey about what the governor’s strategy means.

CAMPAIGNS CONTINUE

While Gov. Perry travels to New Hampshire, the race to succeed him continues. We heard why the Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott campaigns have been mostly silent on the Perry indictment and what they’re focusing on instead.

ON THE AGENDA

The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg joined us to weigh in on the day’s political news. Plus, we heard new testimony from the seismologist hired by the state’s oil and gas regulators.

Perry Attorneys File Motion to Dismiss Charges

As promised, Gov. Rick Perry’s attorneys are asking a judge to dismiss the criminal charges against him.

They filed the motion in district court Monday morning. At a pre-trial hearing Friday, Perry’s attorney, David Botsford said the motion would attack the constitutionality of the prosecution. He says the law being used to prosecute Perry is too vague and that it violates the state’s constitution.

Gov. Perry is charged with two felony counts: abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. The charges stem from his threat to cut funding for the Public Integrity Unit, headed by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. When Lehmberg refused to resign after her drunken driving conviction, the governor followed through on that threat and vetoed the funding.

 

 

 

Capital Tonight: Reporters Examine Perry Indictment

The news surrounding Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment moved quickly this week. Monday, the governor’s defense team made their case to the public; Tuesday saw the governor get booked and fingerprinted; and the week ended with the prosecution and defense meeting in court for the first time.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we checked in on phase-two of the case against the governor and explained what both sides’ legal strategy means.

INDICTMENT 101

By now, most people have heard that the governor’s been indicted, but understanding why gets a little trickier. We looked at all the angles with Wayne Slater of The Dallas Morning News, Peggy Fikac of the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News and Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune. 

 

BEYOND FERGUSON

Meanwhile, the events in Ferguson, Missouri have held the nation’s attention. We explored one of the questions it’s raised about the militarization of police.

McRaven Approved as Next UT System Chancellor

The group overseeing the University of Texas System has officially approved Admiral William McRaven as the next chancellor.

The UT Board of Regents approved his appointment at a scheduled meeting today. McRaven will be paid $1.2 million per year to oversee nine universities and six health institutions spread across the state. In a prepared statement, McRaven thanked the regents for their support and praised the current chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, for his leadership. He added:

“Great universities not only teach—they educate, they build leaders, they create thinkers, and doers—across every aspect of life. This university system should be known for producing tomorrow’s leaders in every field of endeavor.”

Admiral McRaven is a Navy SEAL who has headed the U.S. Special Operations Command since 2011. He led the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden and is a UT graduate who delivered the 2014 UT commencement address. McRaven beat out finalist Richard Fisher, the CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. The board voted to make him a non-salaried UT system employee starting in December, when he’ll begin his term as Chancellor-Designate. He’s then set to replace Cigarroa, who announced in February he would step down from the position, at the start of 2015.

McRaven’s appointment is the first of several major changes coming to the University. After pressure — and threats of firing — from Cigarroa, UT Austin President Bill Powers announced he would resign in 2015. The board is in the early stages of searching for Powers’ replacement.

Perry Attorneys Dismiss Democrats’ CPRIT Investigation Accusations

Gov. Rick Perry’s defense team is refuting claims the governor targeted the Travis County Public Integrity unit because its CPRIT investigation.

In a conference call Thursday, attorney Tony Buzbee read from an affidavit signed by a former PIU investigator in charge of the CPRIT investigation. He states that “at no time in the CPRIT investigation was Governor Rick Perry or anyone from the Governor’s office a target.” The investigator, identified as Chris Walling, said he was interviewed by special prosecutor Michael McCrum. Walling said, “I made it clear to him that there was absolutely no evidence even suggesting wrongdoing on the part of Governor Perry.”

Perry was indicted last week on felony charges that he coerced a public official and abused his office. The charges stem from Perry’s 2013 threat to veto $7.5 million for the PIU if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a drunk driving conviction. 

Democrats have pointed to the CPRIT investigation as a possible motive for Gov. Perry to force Lehmberg, who is a Democrat, out of office. However the Travis County Democratic Party has not said the unit was investigating Perry, specifically.

“Probably the worst political issue about this whole thing is that he actually vetoed those funds while the Public Integrity Unit was investigating the cancer research funds that mysteriously went to some of their donors without the proper vetting process,” said chairman Joe Deshotel.

Perry defense attorney Ben Ginsburg called the accusations “a red herring Democrats are trying to make float upstream.”

Capital Tonight: Political Spin Surrounds Perry Indictment

It’s been days since the governor was indicted, and everyone from the governor to Texas Democrats have had their say. In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we took a step back to separate the facts from the political spin that’s coming from both Republicans and Democrats.

REPORTERS’ NOTES

The significance of the indictment is still being debated, even among the reporters who know the story well. We sat down with two journalists who’ve come to different conclusions about it: Erica Grieder of Texas Monthly and Texas Observer writer Christopher Hooks.

 

FOOTING THE BILL

When it comes to legal representation, there’s no question that the governor has hired some of the best. But who’s going to pay for it and for how long? The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg gave us an update on the efforts to find out.

Capital Tonight: Perry Mugs for Cameras at County Courthouse

Gov. Rick Perry made the most of being booked and fingerprinted after a two-count indictment Tuesday. He spoke to a crowd of journalists and supporters before entering the Travis County Criminal Justice Complex to get fingerprinted and have his mugshot taken. Then, he came out and spoke again.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard more about the governor’s day at the courthouse, plus we learned more about the special prosecutor who led the investigation into Perry, and we spoke to two lawyers about the strength of the state’s case against the governor.

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

After the speeches, came the release of the mugshot. Will it haunt his 2016 ambitions? Political strategists Harold Cook and Brendan Steinhauser weighed in.

PATTERSON’S TAKE

Plus, we heard from a man with no fear of sharing his opinion. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson joined us to talk about the Perry indictment and a proposed change intended to allow the sale of alcohol at certain gun shows.

Gov. Perry Office Confirms He Will Appear for Processing

Gov. Rick Perry will appear at the Travis County Justice Complex at 5:00 this evening to be booked on felony charges. A grand jury indicted Perry on Friday on abuse of official capacity and coercion charges.

The charges stem from 2013 when Perry threatened to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not resign. He followed through and cut $7.5 million when she refused.

Perry and his team of high profile attorneys have maintained that Perry was well within his rights as governor to veto any legislation he saw fit. In regard to the veto threat, Perry attorney David Botsford said, “if he had in, fact said to Rosemary Lehmberg: ‘I do not approve of your conduct. I am not going to fund the Public Integrity Unit unless and until you have resigned.’ There is absolutely no question as a matter of law that that conduct is protected and it is not illegal.”