The Texas Attempted Takedown

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By Rick Scarborough with Robert Knight

Politics can be brutal.  But for sheer gall, it will be hard to top what’s going on in Austin these days.

The Travis County District Attorney’s office is at it again, with what appear to be trumped up charges against Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  This is the same office that crippled Tom DeLay’s career and tried to do the same earlier to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.  The charges against Hutchison were quickly dropped, but it took years for Mr. DeLay to be exonerated.

Here’s the short version of what is happening with this apparently politically motivated attack on Mr. Perry.  Travis County D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg was caught drunk driving in 2013, and spent several weeks in jail. She was also caught on camera mocking police and even sticking out her tongue. This is not exactly appropriate conduct for someone in the Public Integrity Unit of the D.A.’s office.

Gov. Perry asked her to resign. She refused. So he used his power under the Texas constitution to cut off $7.5 million in funding to that office.

Presto, special prosecutor Michael McCrum gets a grand jury in Austin to indict Gov. Perry for abuse of office. And what’s the crime? That he warned Lehmberg of his intent and then followed through.

Wall Street Journal editorial on August 18 entitled “Texas Chainsaw Prosecution” summarizes the situation this way:

“Usually when prosecutors want to use the criminal statutes to cripple a political opponent, they come up with at least some claims of personal or political venality. In this case the D.A.’s office is trying to criminalize the normal process of constitutional government.

“The background facts don’t make the case any more compelling. In 2013 police found Travis D.A. Lehmberg drunk in her car with a blood alcohol level of 0.23, or nearly three times the legal limit. A video made at the time shows her ranting against and abusing the police attempting to book her. The Democrat eventually did jail time.

“Mr. Perry saw a political opening and said he would veto $7.5 million in funds for Ms. Lehmberg’s Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned. He argued, plausibly enough, that a prosecutor who breaks the law and abuses law enforcement shouldn’t judge the ‘public integrity’ of others in government. Ms. Lehmberg refused to step down, and Mr. Perry used his line-item veto to strike the appropriation….

“As for the charge that he tried to coerce Ms. Lehmberg, Mr. Perry was exercising his First Amendment right to speak his mind about a public spending decision. This is what politicians are elected to do. The indictment and its interpretation of Texas law thus violate the Governor’s First Amendment right to free political speech.”

Across the land, we have seen the Internal Revenue Service criminally abuse Tea Parties and other conservative organizations, and politically motivated prosecutions of conservative office holders who could pose a serious threat to liberals.  These include the ongoing petty corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and the secret campaign by the Milwaukee County D.A. to probe Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose victory in a recent recall election still rankles liberals.  The investigation of Mr. Walker went on even though judges quickly threw out indictments against him.

In New Jersey, the “Bridgegate” scandal in which aides of Gov. Chris Christie admitted to closing lanes to foul up traffic in Fort Lee entering the George Washington Bridge drew enormous, outsized media attention.  Even though the governor never has been directly linked to the stupid action, the public perception remains that he is damaged.  You don’t have to be a fan of the governor’s to see that the media went bananas for a reason.

The pattern seems clear.  If you are a conservative or a Republican who represents a credible threat to run for higher office someday, you may well face a politically motivated prosecution and its accompanying media overkill.

This is all the more reason for Christians to get involved and to support people in office who not only talk the talk but walk the walk