The indictment of Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry is an "outrageous… abuse of prosecutorial power," Karl Rove wrote in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal.
He said newspapers with liberal editorial pages, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, criticized the indictment. So did former Obama aide David Axelrod. The indictment is "what happens in totalitarian societies," Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz said, according to Rove.
Rove summarized the events leading up to the indictment: On April 15, 2013, Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was taken into custody for drunk driving. She pleaded guilty and went to jail for 45 days. Her office also oversees the state's Public Integrity Unit. Perry's position is that Lehmberg lost the public's confidence and should resign. He warned that if she didn't step down he would veto funding for the unit. When she didn't go, he did just that.
The left-leaning Texans for Public Justice which gets its money from trial lawyers — with whom Perry has a politically contentious relationship — and George Soros among others, were able to convince a judge to appoint a special prosecutor, Michael McCrum. He presented the case to a grand jury which handed down the indictments, according to Rove.
The first count charged Perry with "abuse of official capacity" for his veto. The second count was for "coercion of public servant" because he demanded Lehmberg step down.
"This is ludicrous," wrote Rove. The governor has authority to veto legislation and his public statements about Lehmberg can't reasonably be described as "coercion," the GOP political strategist said.
"If Mr. McCrum's logic was applied to the U.S. Congress," Rove wrote, "any member who threatened to cut an agency's funds over leadership issues could be charged with 'abuse of official capacity.' And any member who browbeat agency heads over their actions and attached riders to appropriations bills prohibiting or requiring certain practices could be charged with 'coercion of public servant.'"
Rove said that in comparable cases Texas courts have ruled similar charges to be "unconstitutionally vague" and having "a chilling effect on the exercise of free expression."
The Public Integrity Unit has a reputation for trying to "criminalize political differences" by acting against Republican elected officials, according to Rove. It had Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson indicted on charges that were ultimately dropped, and former Rep. Tom DeLay indicted on charges that were eventually dismissed on appeal.
"It is never ideal for a political figure to be indicted," Rove wrote. "But this indictment is so unfair that Mr. Perry has become a sympathetic figure. He'll be even more so when he beats the rap."
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