PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday he never sought a deal with an Austin district attorney he wanted ousted, in his first public comments about a grand jury investigating him over allegations of abuse of office.
Perry said little to reporters who followed him to a Capitol elevator, but the possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate did say he never tried initiating a deal to get Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg removed from office after she was arrested for drunken driving last year.
A grand jury seated last month is reviewing allegations that Perry misused his power after making good on promises to veto $7.5 million in funding for state public corruption prosecutors in Lehmberg’s office if she didn’t resign. It is scheduled to meet again Friday.
“We’re just going to let the record stand. We’ve pretty much addressed that,” Perry said. “We’ll let it play out its course.”
Republicans have long grumbled that the state’s Public Integrity Unit is partisan in the corruption cases it prosecutes, and they have tried moving it from the Travis County District Attorney’s office.
The current probe revolves around Perry’s veto of the money for the unit after Lehmberg refused to resign following her arrest. A political watchdog group filed a complaint alleging that Perry tried to coerce Lehmberg to leave office.
Aides to Perry, who is the longest-serving governor in Texas history, have said he was within his rights to exercise his line-item veto power the way he that did.
Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor investigating Perry, has said he has specific concerns about Perry as part of the investigation, though he has refused to elaborate. He has yet to ask for formal charges against Perry and has said he may never do so.
Perry has been out of state a lot since the grand jury convened, giving Texas reporters less access to him. He has hardly been keeping a low profile, though, appearing last weekend on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he reiterated that he still hasn’t ruled out a second run for the White House.
Texans for Public Justice, a left-leaning group that monitors transparency in state government, alleges that Perry committed coercion of a public servant, abuse of official capacity and official oppression, as well as potential bribery.
Perry will leave office in January after his third full term and 14 years as governor.