Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended his decision to veto funding for the state's public integrity unit, saying that the grand jury indictment against him on charges that he abused the powers of his office was itself "an abuse of power."
"I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand by my veto, and I will continue to defend this lawful action of my executive authority as governor," Perry said, speaking to reporters today in Austin.
Perry, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, was indicted by a grand jury on two counts Friday. Prosecutors say he abused the power of his office by trying to force the resignation of a Democratic district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, who oversees the state's public integrity unit.
He vowed to fight the indictments, which he said "amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power."
Last year the governor publicly threatened to withhold $7.5 million from the public integrity unit, which investigates corruption cases, if Lehmberg, who was arrested for drunk driving, did not step down.
Perry was accused of playing politics with his veto threat, and today he accused the grand jury, which was convened in liberal Travis County, of doing the same.
"We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country," Perry said. "It is outrageous."
Republicans, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have rallied to defend Perry's actions.
- Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) August 16, 2014
But the governor has also faced calls to resign - most notably from Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro.
For the sake of Texas, Governor Perry should resign following his indictment on two criminal felony counts involving abuse of office.
- Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) August 15, 2014
Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, could serve a maximum of 109 years in prison if found guilty. But Perry said he would move swiftly to contest the charges.
"I intend to fight those who would erode our state's constitution and laws purely for political purposes," Perry said. "And I intend to win."