Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Rick Perry Indictment Isn't Crazy

Certifiable idiot after his "Oops" moment in 2012.
Now, with his new glasses, presidential timber!

James Moore in Huffington Post gets the part of the Rick Perry indictment that others in the press (purposefully?) ignore [my boldface]:
If Perry were able to get Lehmberg to resign, he'd have the authority to appoint her replacement. We can assume that would have been a Republican, and that any investigations might have stuttered to a halt. The DA, however, refused, and began to field threats from the governor's office that the PIU budget was to be zeroed out via line item veto. But the exercise of the veto is not what got Perry indicted.
First, he used the veto to threaten a public officeholder. This is abuse of the power of his office. Presidents and governors frequently use the possibility of vetoes to change the course of legislation. But that is considerably different than trying to force an elected officeholder to resign. What Perry did, if true, can be politely called blackmail, and, when he sent emissaries to urge Lehmberg to quit even after his veto, he may have indulged in bribery. According to sources close to the grand jury, Perry dispatched two of his staffers and one high-profile Democrat to tell Lehmberg if she left her office the governor would reinstate the PIU budget. One report indicates there may have been a quid pro quo of a new, more lucrative job for the DA, which is why this case has nothing to do with his right to use the veto.
When I first heard of this indictment perhaps a week ago on MSNBC, the commentator on (maybe?) the Chris Hayes show made the point clear that the most dreadful part of the indictment was that offering of a bribe -- you resign, I'll give the funding back to PIU, and you get a better job out of the deal. Since then, I've watched op-ed and news story after op-ed and news story, from the likes of Ruth Marcus, CBS News, and even Judy Woodruff on the News Hour, citing Rick Perry's veto as the smoking gun of the indictment. Some, like Woodruff, limit it to Perry's "veto threat."

Booked! Rick Perry's "smug"shot.
This is pathetic, possibly willfully obtuse, news reporting at its worst, which is all the more aggravating as it supports Rick Perry's story line and potential defense: I used my veto authority and I'd do it again.

We live in a news world of increasing incompetence, or we live in a world where news people protect their status by adhering to talking points that give them the opportunity to appear not to take sides, even when simply accurately stating the news -- like mentioning the bribery allegations embedded in the Perry indictment -- would be, well, stating news facts clearly and completely.

It's funny that the media stops explaining the story right before it gets to the part of it where Perry looks like he's in deep shit. That's for, I don't know, other, more intrepid reporters to unveil?

Here's one in Texas, Forrest Wilder of the Texas Observer, who's slightly more intrepid:
The criminal complaint against Perry was filed in June 2013 by the liberal Texans for Public Justice but it was assigned to a Republican judge in Bexar County who appointed Michael McCrum—a former police officer and prosecutor in the George H.W. Bush administration—as special prosecutor. McCrum was previously tapped by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (both conservative Republicans) to be the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas. There is no evidence that McCrum has a partisan axe to grind—quite the contrary.
The Travis County DA’s office, including Rosemary Lehmberg, had nothing to do with the indictment.
 Okay, what else?
The Public Integrity Unit is largely funded by the Texas Legislature. That money isn’t earmarked for Rosemary Lehmberg; it’s earmarked for the oversight function of the Travis County DA’s Public Integrity Unit. It is that money that Perry threatened to line-item veto if Lehmberg did not resign. When she did not, and Travis County opted not to remove her, Perry then yanked the funding. Afterwards, he continued to make offers to restore the funding in exchange for Lehmberg’s resignation, according to media reports. One account says he signaled that he would find Lehmberg another well-paying job within the DA’s office. Had she resigned, Perry would have appointed her successor.
The criminal case against Perry centers on his “coercion” of a local elected official using threats and promises. It is not premised—as has been repeatedly misreported—on the veto itself. Craig McDonald, the head of Texans for Public Justice and the original complainant, has said as much. As McDonald told CNN:
“The governor is doing a pretty good job to try to make this about [Lehmberg] and her DWI conviction. But this has never been about his veto of her budget and about her. This is about his abuse of power and his coercion trying to get another public citizen to give up their job.”
All right then. But how do we know whether he should have been indicted and whether or not he'll be convicted? We don't, but:
It is quite possible that the case against Rick Perry will fizzle. Perhaps it is “flimsy” and “thin” and all the rest. Credible legal experts have said they think the prosecution will have a difficult time securing a conviction. However, none of us is privy to the evidence and testimony presented to the grand jury. According to Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News, McCrum said he “interviewed more than 40 people, reviewed hundreds of documents and read many dozens of cases.” Fikac and other reporters who staked out the courthouse long before the national press spent five minutes reading the indictment watched “current and former Perry staffers, Travis County employees and state lawmakers” entering the grand jury room over the summer.
It is possible that McCrum has gathered more information on Perry’s motives that will come to light later. Although the indictment doesn’t mention it, the Public Integrity Unit is investigating a scandal involving the $3 billion Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a fund close to the governor’s office that suffered from cronyism and lax oversight. The Public Integrity Unit indicted one CPRIT official in December for deceiving his colleagues and awarding an $11 million grant to a Dallas biotech firm without a proper vetting.
What else, if anything, did McCrum turn up in his interviews and document search? At this point, we just don’t know.
This doesn’t make for explosive headlines but the fact is, we’re just going to have to wait and see how the case unfolds.
I can wait. Apparently the Beltway boys and girls can't. That would mess up their "Rick Perry is back!" script they've running since he put on serious-looking glasses.

Update. Another Texas paper says Perry indictment adds up to more than the conventional wisdom.

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