AUSTIN, Texas - Gov. Rick Perry wore a wry smile and ditched the black-framed glasses that are synonymous with his political comeback as he posed Tuesday for his mug shot at the Travis County Courthouse complex.
Then he went out for ice cream.
Perry, the first Texas governor to be indicted in nearly a century, was greeted by cheers at the Travis County courthouse complex, where one man shouted,“We love you.”
In brief remarks, Perry showed the chin-up boldness that has characterized his response to the indictment since it was returned Friday.
“I’m here today because I believe in the rule of law. I’m here today because I did the right thing. I’m going to enter this courthouse with my head held high, knowing the actions that I took were not only lawful and legal but right,” said Perry. He spoke both before and after going into the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center to be booked on a felony indictment that he abused his power with a veto threat last year.
He appeared at the courthouse complex about 5 p.m., a spot-on time for the television cameras, and was greeted by a crowd of media whom his office notified of his pending appearance, as promised by his legal team.
After taking care of courthouse business, Perry put a light twist on the day by tweeting,“And then, ice cream cone at #Sandy’s,” complete with a photo.
The juxtaposition of the weighty moment and flippant footnote was typical Perry, who has maintained he will prevail in the case. The indictment stems from his threat last year to veto funding for a public corruption unit overseen by Democratic Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg unless she resigned in the wake of a messy drunken-driving arrest and guilty plea.
Lehmberg stayed in office after serving jail time. The Republican governor vetoed the money for the Public Integrity Unit, saying she had lost the public’s confidence.
Texans for Public Justice, a liberal government accountability group, filed the complaint against Perry that triggered the grand jury investigation, saying he was wrong to use his power to try to force out a locally elected official.
“If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit again,” Perry said Tuesday, suggesting the case“is far bigger than me. It’s about the rule of law.”
The special prosecutor, San Antonio lawyer Michael McCrum, has vigorously rebuffed the idea that politics are at play in the case, saying it was based strictly on the law.
Several members of the grand jury that returned the indictment also said his contention of political gamesmanship is unfair and disrespectful to their months of work on the case.
“I guess that’s his side’s job - to really spin it,” juror Janna Bessin told the Houston Chronicle.
Perry, who was joined at Tuesday’s news conference by members of his high-powered legal team, isn’t letting the court proceedings hamper his travel schedule as he eyes a potential 2016 race for president.
The indictment came as Perry was getting some positive reviews as he seeks to recover from his disastrous 2012 White House bid. His glasses, back in place for Tuesday’s ice-cream shot, have been a sign of his re-made image.
Perry is scheduled to speak Thursday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., then head to New Hampshire for appearances Friday and Saturday. He is also scheduled to visit South Carolina and Iowa - like New Hampshire, important proving grounds for presidential candidates - before heading for Japan and China.
A Friday arraignment is scheduled, but Perry doesn’t have to appear.