Texas Governor Rick Perry Indicted on Charges of Abuse of Power, Coercion — There Goes 2016?

Here's some positively bombshell breaking political news out of Texas: Texas Governor Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury Friday night, on charges of abuse of power and coercion. Perry is charged with vetoing $7.5 million in funding for the state's Public Integrity Unit unless Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg agreed to resign from her post. She didn't, and he made good on his threat — an action which drew an ethics report, according to the AP, and now poses a grave legal risk to the Texas Republican.

It's a staggering blow to Perry, obviously, as well as whatever presidential ambitions he may have harbored. He was one of a handful of Republican governors being floated as possible contenders in 2016, in spite of his disastrous performance in 2012, but it's hard to envision a successful run now on the heels of this news. The two charges against Perry are felonies. According the The Dallas Morning News, Perry had made the power play to oust Lehmberg following video released of her drunk driving arrest, a failing for which Lehmberg submitted to a 45-day treatment program.

The Morning News also reports that Perry has maintained he committed no wrongdoing, defending his veto authority as constitutional, but the real problem is whether he was engaged in a deliberate attempt to use the veto as a cudgel — to force Lehmberg out, and if not, to make the Public Integrity Unit that operates out of the Travis County DA's office pay the price.

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Perry's General Counsel, Mary Anne Wiley, has issued a statement regarding the indictment:

The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded the every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor's lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.

So, in short: The big loser here is Governor Perry, who is now faced with these dire allegations. But the big winner? If anyone, probably Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who now has a juicy scandal to leverage against the state GOP.

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