Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday defended his actions as legal after his first court appearance for charges related to abuse of power.
“I’m here to restate the lawful constitutional authority of a governor to use his or her veto authority,” Perry said. “I stand behind my authority and I would do it again.”
A grand jury in August indicted Perry on two felony counts that originated from his threat in 2013 to veto millions of dollars of funding for part of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office unless she resigned following her drunken driving conviction in April of that year. When she refused, he followed through and vetoed $7.5 million slated for the state’s Public Integrity Unit.
During the pretrial hearing on Thursday, Perry sat without showing much emotion through a heated debate between lawyers on both sides. His attorneys argued that the judge should dismiss the case because of technicalities. One example they cited was that special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, was allegedly not sworn in properly. The judge didn’t immediately make a decision.
The hearing marked the third time the prosecutor and Perry’s defense team appeared in court, but the judge’s first request for the governor’s attendance. Perry previously asked to be excused from pretrial hearings.
The governor, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in the 2012 election and is openly considering a 2016 presidential bid, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He celebrated his booking with a smile in his mugshot and ice cream afterward, in what seemed like an attempt to downplay the possibility that the indictment will harm his chances at a spot in the White House.