Texas Gov. Rick Perry has added Republican strategist Steve Schmidt to the legal team he has assembled to battle the felony indictments, which have the onetime presidential contender looking at the possibility of spending years in prison.
Schmidt was a consultant to Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in his 2008 run for the White House. Perry spokesman Jeff Miller told Politico,
"We’re bringing in the best of the best to help us handle this. This is serious. We've got to handle it with the appropriate measures."
Perry, who appears to be ramping up for another run at the presidency in 2016, risks alienating tea party stalwarts, since Schmidt led efforts to blame the 2008 loss on McCain's vice presidential choice, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a tea party favorite, and has a record of bashing other conservatives.
Conservative radio host Mark Levin told Breitbart News,
"Why would Perry hire this conservative-hater and Palin-hater?"
Perry is facing two indictments from a grand jury in Austin, a liberal stronghold in Texas, charging that he abused his veto power when he cut off $7.5 million in state funds to the anti-corruption office, the Public Integrity Unit. The office was run by Democratic Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who was arrested in April 2013 for drunk driving and sentenced to 45 days in jail, The Washington Post
Lehmberg served about half the sentence, and Perry said he vetoed the funding because "the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence."
The charges — abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant — carry sentences of five to 99 years in prison on the first charge and two to 10 years on the second, the Post reports.
Perry, who is ending his 14 years as governor, is the first Texas governor to face indictment in 97 years.
He said in a statement, "I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto, and will continue to defend this lawful action of my executive authority as governor.
"We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country. It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state’s constitution."
Perry, Breitbart notes, also has placed veteran Republic political operative Henry Barbour on his team. Barbour has been blasted by conservatives
for smearing state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi primary and ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell, and others have called on the Republican National Committee to censor Barbour.
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