PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — As his lawyers in Texas worked to have the indictment against him dismissed, Gov. Rick Perry flew here on Friday to continue laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential bid, exuding confidence as he spoke with businessmen and women in this first-in-the-nation primary state.
Perry, a Republican, was the picture of nonchalance, musing on topics like states’ rights, the rule of law and securing the border, all before he was asked to comment on an indictment last week that charged him with abusing his power.
“A few officials want to restrict my constitutional authority to veto a piece of legislation,’’ he said, reframing the matter. Those officials are in Travis County, which he dismissed as Democratic. “Texas is a pretty red state, but I refer to Travis County as the blueberry in tomato soup, if you know what I mean,’’ he said to chuckles.
Perry was accused of trying to force the resignation of Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County district attorney, after she was arrested on a drunken-driving charge in April 2013, by threatening to veto funding for her office’s Public Integrity Unit. He ultimately followed through, vetoing $7.5 million in state funds.
In Austin, Texas, on Friday, one of Perry’s lawyers, David L. Botsford, denounced the case against the governor as weak and politically motivated.
But the special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, defended the indictment and vowed to mount a vigorous response to a dismissal motion. “I anticipate that Mr. Perry will never plead guilty,’’ McCrum said. “So, because of that, I anticipate it will go to trial.’’
In New Hampshire, Perry declared, “I’m going to fight this with every fiber of my being.’’
At the luncheon here — where about two dozen guests sat with him — many said the indictment was a nonissue, a position shared by a number of editorial boards and liberal pundits.
“It’s not worth spending any time thinking about, compared to the extraordinary challenges that this country faces,’’ Greg Whalen, a commercial real estate broker, said in an interview afterward. Doug Bates, president of the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, said the indictment must be politically motivated. “Can you imagine any employee of yours going out and getting drunk, three times the drinking limit, and you’re going to keep giving her money to run the department?’’ he asked, referring to reports of Lehmberg’s blood alcohol level. “I don’t think so.’’