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State of the Union

Interview With Missouri Governor Jay Nixon; Rick Perry Indicted on Corruption Charges; Interview With Congressman William Lacy Clay

Aired August 17, 2014 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Curfew imposed, curfew broken, as the fury of Ferguson moves into a second week.





CROWLEY: Today: Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on the state of Ferguson's streets and the investigation into the shooting death of a black teen by a white police officer.


GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: This is a test. The eyes of the world are watching.


CROWLEY: Then Congressman Lacy Clay and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik on why officer-friendly became G.I. Joe. And is Ferguson another page in race relations or history repeating itself?


CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: It's time to stop saying it's an old wound and close it for good.


CROWLEY: A conversation with journalist L.Z. Granderson, political strategist Tara Wall and actor and activist Jesse Williams.

Plus, is it possible to run for president while under charges for abuse of power?


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: This farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is.


CROWLEY: The curious case against Governor Rick Perry with the man who set the wheels in motion, deep into the heart of Texas politics.


Hello. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

Another night of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after protesters defied a newly imposed midnight-to-5:00 a.m. curfew. Seven people were arrested, one person was shot, apparently by another demonstrator. That person is in critical condition. Police used smoke canisters and tear gas in response to the shooting.

Moments ago, I spoke with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

Governor Nixon, thanks so much for being here this morning.

The man you put in charge of security, Captain Johnson, said after last night that he was disappointed in what happened. There was some violence, some arrests. Did you have any concern when you considered the curfew? Do you have any concern now that it could be counterproductive?

NIXON: Well, I mean, first of all, it's been quite a week. The shooting of Michael Brown, young 18-year-old, in his own hometown, shot down the street, brought emotions out very raw and appropriate.

And as we move through the week, when we saw the militarization of police response, I thought the best thing to do was bring the Highway Patrol late in the week, bring in Captain Johnson, and get involved with it with a less hard look. That went well for -- until the second night, and we had some agitation.

Last night's curfew, I think everybody worked well. We're always disappointed when things aren't perfect, but thousands of people spoke last night. Thousands of people marched, and not a single gunshot fired by a member of law enforcement last night, and the members of community tremendous helpful last night to get through what could have been a very difficult night.

CROWLEY: How long do you intend to enforce the curfew? What is the benchmark for lifting it?

NIXON: Well, first of all, we wanted to make sure when we saw that second night late, the clear actions of a few to loot, we knew we had to keep people's property safe and peace in order to get justice here.

We can't be distracted from the longer pitch here, and the longer is to make sure that these dual investigations, the Justice Department and the local prosecutor, to get to justice, that they are thorough and done. And I thought that this distraction and folks not feeling safe in their own homes, while protecting the rights of people to protest, was important. But we're hoping to -- we will meet later this morning with the

team last night, get -- see how things from their perspective, but we are trying to use the least amount of force to provide people to -- the ability to speak, while also protecting the property of the people of Ferguson.

CROWLEY: Do you see the curfew staying in place for the next several days? Is that what you're saying?

NIXON: It could be -- we'd like to see it ratcheted down.

What we would like to see -- well, that will be judged by the community. And like I say, I was heartened last night by the -- you know, there were thousands of people there, and as the curfew approached, it was the local folks helping us.

Earlier in the evening, Colonel Replogle and Captain Johnson marched with folks and listened and talked to them personally there last night. And the local officials had called on me to call a curfew. And the local officials and citizens who were there last night were the greatest help.

And I think that that's going to be part of the healing process, but let's not kid ourselves. This was a horrific shooting. We're not to justice yet, and there will be some -- some moments of energy and angst over the coming days and weeks.

CROWLEY: Where are we in the judicial process from the local point of view? When do you expect a case would be ready to present to a grand jury?

NIXON: Well, you have two separate investigations.

I was happy -- I mean, I talked to -- just the other day to -- a long talk with General Holder. Based on that, they put 40 FBI agents working in Saint Louis yesterday in this region yesterday to accelerate that process for that parallel investigation.

I think it's a time the local prosecutor to have the opportunity to step up. I know everybody's working really hard. It's important we get this right. This is a big matter. Clearly, the death of an 18-year-old at the hands of a law enforcement gun is something that's caught a nerve, not just here in Missouri, but across the nation and the world.

CROWLEY: Right, but the...

NIXON: It's important that these -- that these be done, but done -- done well.


CROWLEY: The question is, Governor, when do you think -- it seems to me that part of bringing peace to the streets actually would be some sort of action on the judicial side of this. Do you have a sense that we could see a local case? I know

you're not in charge of the FBI, but a local case here presented to a grand jury this week, next week, a month from now?

NIXON: Well, I will let the prosecutor speak for himself on what his time frame is, other than I know that, when I talked to Attorney General Holder, that the response to that was to bring 40 additional FBI agents into the region...


NIXON: ... to accelerate those interviews.

And I think all the folks are accelerating their interviews. But they're going to get this right. And everybody's working really, really hard. This is going to be something that -- to get justice, it has to be transparent justice. It has to be thorough justice. And there are a lot of witnesses and a lot of folks concerned about what went down and what justice can be.

So I think that -- well, I know they're working very hard, and I know that those additional resources yesterday were really felt. And I know that it's time for the local prosecutor to step up. And I'm confident the Justice Department will -- with the additional resources and focus here, that General Holder and the FBI and folks are going to get the information and get it to the proper choosing authorities, my sense, in a timely fashion.

CROWLEY: There are complaints and criticisms, as you know, of the Saint Louis County prosecutor that would do this case, Robert McCulloch, saying that his -- in previous cases, he has not been aggressive in pursuing police abuse or abuse by police.

Do you think someone else is better suited, would be better suited to push this case forward?

NIXON: Well, he's an experienced prosecutor. And this is his opportunity to step up. I think also in this situation with the justice...


CROWLEY: But you're kind of suggesting to me that, thus far, he hasn't. So, that's why I'm asking.

NIXON: Well, they're out doing the investigations, and the charging decisions have not been made.

And everybody understands and he's said in public that they're going to present evidence to a grand jury. So, I think that the dual, parallel investigations of Justice and the local really, really add both a -- they just help.

They help tremendously to make sure that all the information is getting out, that it's being done in an organized fashion. And I -- like I said, I appreciate the parallel investigation being done by the Justice Department in some situations, I would think with some of the detectives and whatnot.

That's the kind of independent, external, national review and investigation of this that I think will assist everyone in making sure we get to justice.

CROWLEY: Governor, if a civilian had shot another civilian in the middle of a street in broad daylight with witnesses who have already been on television saying that one of the people was unarmed and had his hands up, would that person be in jail right now?

I think, from the street, that's kind of the questions you were getting at that very raucous town hall yesterday.

NIXON: Yes, I mean, there's a tremendous amount of angst about the facts in this case, an 18-year-old, Michael Brown, shot down in the street of his own home area.

And any moment that goes on here is going to continue to build, you know, that angst, until there's some solution at the end.


NIXON: These are legitimate concerns.

But it's important that this -- that the prosecutors and the Justice Department get this right. And I think we need to, as a community, focus on peace to get justice...

CROWLEY: Right, but if...



NIXON: ... and to make sure we follow the Brown family's recommendations here, and not -- not use this as a flash point, but use this as a point to get justice.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And I -- my question is, would another person who is not a police officer have been arrested or charged by now under similar circumstances?

NIXON: Well, I can't speak to just hypothetical cases, other than to say each one is different.

But, as I said before, until the charging decisions are made, until the investigation is complete, there's going to be folks with energy. And that's why we want to continue to maintain the opportunity for people to protest and speak out, while keeping the peace.

And we will continue to make sure, as you saw when we shifted the law enforcement approach here on the security side, to make sure people knew that they had the right and the opportunity to continue to express themselves.


And, finally, sir, we are hearing stories now and people talking about decades of police abuse and institutional racism, as it's been called, in and around Saint Louis County, not just in Ferguson, but in other places. Does that come as a surprise to you, those complaints?

NIXON: I mean, across the country, these are deep wounds. And when you scratch them again, they hurt, and whether it's in Ferguson, Missouri, or other parts of the country.

We all know there's been a long history of challenges in these areas. And our hope is that, with the help of the people here, that we can be an example of getting justice and getting peace and using that to move forward.

But it's a challenge. It's -- there are deep, long-term wounds, and we're hopeful that when justice is had, that this entire process and the folks who have spoken out will be part of an effort to help bridge those gaps. It's one of the reasons why, when Captain Jackson came in, he came right into the community. He didn't roll up in an MRAP.

Our troopers that are in there, even the colonel of our Highway Patrol were marching with these folks last night. It's very important that our -- that our officers of wherever be in the communities and as part of those communities for protection when needed, not feel like an external force.

And I think all across the country, that's a task we have to accomplish.

CROWLEY: Governor Jay Nixon, thanks for your time this morning.

NIXON: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Heavily armed police in Ferguson shine a spotlight on a Pentagon program that provides military-style equipment to local police departments. Should keeping the peace look so much like waging war? That's next.


CROWLEY: Anyone looking at Ferguson this week could imagine it was a war zone, not a Midwest suburb.

While it's unclear how much equipment used in Ferguson came from the Pentagon, we do know that police forces around the country received military upgrades for anti-narcotics operations in the '90s and more recently to combat terrorism.

I am joined now by former NYPD Chief Bernard Kerik and Congressman Lacy Clay, whose district includes Ferguson.

Gentlemen, thank you both so much for being here.

Let's pretend that everything Ferguson had, Congressman, actually came from elsewhere, that it's not Department of Defense equipment. Attitudinally, there is a difference between a soldier who goes off to war to kill people and a policeman who is there to protect. Is this a question of equipment, or is this a question of attitude?

REP. WILLIAM LACY CLAY (D), MISSOURI: Well, it's an issue that we need to have a national discussion about, the militarization of local police forces, and then when they are used to quell peaceful demonstration.

Then we have a problem, and especially around this entire case of the murder of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer.

CROWLEY: And, Mr. Kerik let me...

CLAY: And it just -- it -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

CROWLEY: That's all right.

I was just going to have Mr. Kerik jump in, because can you make a case for having this equipment? I'm assuming that, lots of times, police are outgunned and need heavier equipment.

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, this goes back to the early '90s and the drug war, late '80s, early '90s, and the drug war. Drug dealers had far better equipment, more equipment, more dangerous equipment than the police.

Then you go into a post-9/11 world and the terror threats that we face. Also keep in mind we have seen a substantial increase in the active-shooter scenarios in our schools, grammar schools, theaters, where police have to respond in a capacity that they have the equipment and the resources necessary to fight that threat. It's absolutely needed.

CROWLEY: So, Congressman, how do you strike that balance? You don't want your police force looking like they are seeing their citizenry as enemies. On the other hand, you do want them equipped for when they do actually face folks that they might see as enemies.

CLAY: Well, and the scenes that we saw in Ferguson, Missouri, this past week, with a militarized police force facing down innocent protesters with sniper rifles and machine guns is totally unacceptable in America.

Now, I have gotten word that some of these police departments who have received this equipment have not been properly -- properly trained in its use by the military. So, that is a question that some of my colleagues in Congress have said that they are going to try to get answers to.

CROWLEY: Mr. Kerik, do you agree with that, that there maybe isn't the proper training, and sometimes you should leave some of the equipment at home?

KERIK: Well, here's the thing, that, you know, what we saw in Ferguson was more a riot control scenario. Do you need the heavy weapons? Not necessarily. Do you need the

assault weapons? You need riot batons. You need riot shields. You also -- you may need that other stuff, but you don't need it up front. You need it off in the outset in the event that something happens.

But the one thing I will agree with the congressman on substantially is the training. You have departments around the country that receive a lot of this equipment from the federal government. They don't have the real training necessary to use it. A lot of them don't -- they don't know what they're getting.

They don't have the interoperability or intercommunications with the larger agencies. For example, in my state, the New Jersey State Police, the Newark Police Department, Jersey City police departments, they have major special weapons teams that train constantly.

But you have a lot of small agencies in New Jersey, 10, 15, 20 -- 20 people on the department, that want a SWAT team. You know, it's well-intended. Is it the right thing to do? I don't necessarily think so.

CROWLEY: Congressman Clay, when you look at police actions -- and, first, let's just talk about the Ferguson police -- now you have the state police who have moved in to take over.

Where do you think have been -- and I'm assuming you do because I have heard you talk about it -- the major blunders while trying to deal with both the shooting and the aftermath?

CLAY: Well, as far as major blunders, I think that, in the beginning of this week, Saint Louis County police and Ferguson police were way too heavy-handed in the way they interacted with peaceful demonstrators.

These demonstrators have a right to assemble in a peaceful manner, have a right to be heard. And it was very confrontational, and it shouldn't have been. I think that, when Captain Ron Johnson came in from the Missouri Highway Patrol, then things began to level out, and he struck a good balance between law enforcement and interacting with these demonstrators.

Now -- but a bigger problem here in Ferguson and across this region and across America are that police forces who are in -- in African-American communities are not diverse enough. They do not have enough diversity within their force. They do not have a healthy relationship with the African-American community that they are supposed to police.

We have to have a national conversation about how police forces should interact with the African-American community, who happens to be paying their salary, who want to be served and protected, who these officers are take an oath to do so.

CROWLEY: Right. Right.

Mr. Kerik, let me get you in on this. When you watched this unfold, what struck you? And was there a part of you that just went, wow, that was a huge mistake?

KERIK: Well, I think some of the weaponry I saw initially, early on, but, you know, listen, I hate to Monday-morning quarterback these things.

CROWLEY: Right. Right.

KERIK: There were Molotov cocktails thrown.

There was personal and -- or property that was damaged. The police have to respond to that. You can't let the thugs take over the city. We saw that the other day. The police had to respond. Were they heavy-handed? I wasn't there. I don't know. Some of the weapons I saw I don't think were needed.

And then again last night, we had the flare-up. The police can't be afraid to do their job, shouldn't be afraid to do their job, you know, and we have to get away from this political correctness.

Peaceful demonstrations should be peaceful. The police can do their job, but when the thugs try to take over the community, the police have to act and do whatever they have to do to keep the peace.

CROWLEY: Because we have not seen the officer involved in this killing, there has been no one to speak for him. But you -- or to say we have got pieces of his side of the story -- we have eyewitnesses that say something completely different.

What's he going through right now? You have been through this sort of thing with officers you have overseen.

KERIK: He's going through extreme mental torture right now.

His life is going to be flipped upside down. He's going to be tortured by the community. He's going to be tortured by the press and media. Every bit of his life from grammar school up is going to be scrutinized until this goes before a grand jury, and a determination is made whether the killing was justified or not.

CROWLEY: Congressman Clay, I'm going to give you the final word on this.

You have called this a murder. And I understand. And this is an unarmed 18-year-old shot by a policeman. That much, we know. There's a difference of opinion about what led to that. But the day in court, should it come to that, are you already sort of usurping that by calling it a murder?

CLAY: I don't think I'm usurping it by calling it a murder.

And I will say this. And I made a commitment and a promise to Ms. McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother, that I will pursue justice with the family at every avenue, be it on the federal level or at the state level.

Now -- and so, you know, what happened Friday with the police Chief Jackson releasing the name of the officer and releasing those photos of Michael Brown were totally unrelated to the incident. We should not lose focus of the incident, but you had an 18-year-old person walking in the street...

CROWLEY: Right. Right.

CLAY: ... who was eventually gunned down after he raised his arms to surrender to police.

So that has to be addressed. And I want the legal system to take its course.

CROWLEY: Congressman Lacy Clay, thank you so much for joining us from Ferguson this morning.

Bernard Kerik, thank you for coming in.

KERIK: Thank you.

CROWLEY: We appreciate your input.

CLAY: Thank you for having me.

CROWLEY: We have been down this road before, the role of race and why incidents like Ferguson keep happening.

That's next.


CROWLEY: It's a familiar scenario, a black male dies at the hands of police, unquestionable circumstances, as in other incidents, race has reared its head in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Joining me, columnist and CNN political commentator LZ Granderson, political strategist, Tara Wall, and actor and activist, Jesse Williams. You know him from the television show "Grey's Anatomy," but he has also worked with (ph) the Advancement Project to civil rights organization. Welcome all.

Jesse, let me start with you because I always have great hesitation about these conversations. I feel like we have them all the time and they become placebo conversations. They do nothing. They move nothing, and then the next sentence comes up and we do it all again. What changes...


CROWLEY: ...this kind of dynamic?

WILLIAMS: I think that's a reasonable sentiment. It does feel like it changes nothing, it moves nothing. I mean, police have been beating the hell out of black people for a very, very, very long time before the advent of the video camera and despite the advent of the video camera there are still a lot of incredible trend of police brutality and killing in the street and justice is never served. You can't think of a single police brutality case ever where

justice has been reached, yet people are told to expect to trust the system and it will work itself out. But I think that context really matters in these situations that people have a reason to be outraged and people have a reason to feel mistrust for a system that doesn't ultimately serve them when it's against a wall of blue silence.

Particularly in this case, there's specific things that make this very suspicious, very odd chain of events, and very, very bizarre behavior/reaction with this kind of playing dress-up, pretending that Ferguson is Afghanistan situation. It's weird.

CROWLEY: Troubling.

Tara, is it that bad?

TARA WALL, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, you know, look, I've been to this area in St. Louis. I've reported there. I've been a reporter there. I understand the racial implications between police and this has bubbled up in the past. This is not anything new, of course not to this level, no to this scale.

I would say a couple of things. I mean, first of all, law and order is a reasonable expectation, I think, from any standpoint. That being said, and the fact that as we know, all the facts are not in, and they are still coming in, but I think based on the facts that we know and that we've heard from both police and witnesses on the ground, there is -- it's clear that an unarmed teenager was shot down in the middle of the street by a police officer, multiple times.

I think that that should raise ire for anyone, black, white, brown, whatever. This could be anyone's brother, son, and it is not, should not be acceptable for, you know, for something like this to go unanswered.

CROWLEY: LZ, I once talked to Deval Patrick, the governor in Massachusetts, about this, and I'm -- blame me if this is a misquote, but the gist of it was that he felt we could never have an honest race discussion in America because one side refuses to believe any progress has been made, and the other side refuses to believe more progress is needed, and that we immediately becomes almost a partisan divide except for it's a black/white divide that whites feel like they're being accused of being racist when a cop does something like this, and so you never get beyond the conversation. Do you agree with that?

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: I definitely agree with a lot of elements of that. I tweeted something a couple days ago which is, you know, let's try listening to each other instead of being prepared with "yes but." We always seem to be trying to one-up each other. If a black person talks about police brutality, you have a white person that says, yes but black on black crime is higher. Then the black person goes, yes, but violence tend to be interracial anyway. Then it's like, yes but the race (ph) -- we go back and forth that way and we don't really hear each other.

I mean, you're talking about Trayvon Martin. I go all the way back to Rodney King and how people still had two different perspectives about the videotape that they were watching, you know, black people were saying that it caused that much - that it was that much violence required in order to hold him down.

WALL: Yes, to (ph) your (ph) point (ph) I think - yes, I think cultural awareness cuts both ways. I think because there is a cultural sensitivity here that police certainly failed on, whether it was community policing, cultural sensitivity, whatever you want to call it on one end.

On the other there's a cultural awareness than protesters, demonstrators also need to have about the rule of law and the role that police can and should play in instances like this to protect and serve and not cast a web, if you will, over all law enforcement.

There are good and bad. I happen to have people in my family who work in law enforcement but I think that on both ends there's cultural awareness and education that needs to happen on both sides of the issue.

CROWLEY: Jesse, bringing you in here, is the -- it just seems that the gulf is so wide. I agree with LZ that sometimes the Internet widens it further because you tend to get the really polar views on there, and I guess I'm just absolutely dying for some sort of answer that makes conversations about this come to a mutual conclusion.

WILLIAMS: That's -- I don't think that's going to happen certainly on the Internet. There's a lot of, you know, that provides this veil of anonymous bully pulpit tough guy polar opposite kind of collisions that happen. And I think that there's also -- there is several things happening. I think that there is certainly a double standard of whiteness and a bit of like an ownership mentality in this country that this -- that really rears its ugly head when we get into crimes or incidents that happen that involve brown people, you know, victims of these shootings are immediately vilified on screen in the media, on the online networks, trying to justify putting these boys on trial for their own murder, and they're always found guilty of their own murder, and we don't feel that that's what happens when white people shoot up schools or theaters.

They're immediately just (ph) trying to be explained and get to the bottom of it and interview people around them and find out what happened. And it feels - it feels imbalanced, because it is imbalanced, and there is also, you know, there is a disproportionate representation of low income black folks in media and we don't have 300 channels that represent all of the people that all of your panelists and I know and love represented on screen, and that all these things create an imbalance that is going to absolutely show itself.


WALL: Yes. I agree with that. I think that we have these conversations, as you say, all the time, and they bubble up when instances like this happen, and nothing happens --

CROWLEY: They go away.

WALL: And then they go away and there is a greater responsibility, or there should be maybe a better responsibility, a broader depth of responsibility for media, as opposed to, granted you have to cover the breaking news, the sound bites, all of that, but when do we start having these more in-depth roundtable discussions, whether it's -- and this is why I started my documentary work because you don't capture all of that in these instances.

The conversation goes away when the next news item pops up, and it's unfortunate, because these conversations can and still do happen at a community level, should continue to happen on a community level but they should also be showcased for others to see why it's important to talk about cultural differences, to talk about what brought us to this problem and why this continues -- why these issues continue to persist in society today.

GRANDERSON: And we have to be willing to call each other out.

WALL: That's right. Frankly, yes.

GRANDERSON: I think the - I think the black community does a disservice to itself when it allows charlatans to come into these situations, make a name for themselves and then evacuate the situation. Now, I could drop names but I think we all know who I'm talking about, and when for instance --

WALL: Sounds like Carson (ph)?

GRANDERSON: The situation in Duke, for instance, with the Lacrosse players, we rushed in. We automatically assumed that the black woman was right and that all these white males on the Lacrosse team were wrong. We found out that she was lying, there was no apology, there was no recognition of the lie. We just moved on, and that left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths.

On the flipside when you have something blatantly racist going on, for instance what happened with Trayvon Martin and white people just want to move on and say, well, it's a tragic situation, no, acknowledge it, because if you acknowledge it, that means you understand me and you hear me and then I can believe that you're for me.

CROWLEY: Go ahead, Jesse.

WILLIAMS: Well, I think that we also have to talk about the narrative, and making sure we're starting at the beginning. You will find that the people doing the oppressing often want to start the narrative at a convenient point, always want to start the point in the middle. This started with a kid getting shot and killed and left in the street for four hours. I've never seen a white body left in the street for four hours in the sweltering heat. I've never - you know, the cop doesn't call - doesn't call in the shooting. The body isn't put in an ambulance. It's shuddered away in some shady unmarked SUV.

There's a lot of -- there's a lot of bizarre behavior going on and that is the story, that's where we need journalism, that's where we need that element of our society to kick into gear and not just keep playing a loop that gets discovered of what the kid may have done or did apparently in a convenience store. That's unfortunate. If that happened, where that's going to be factored in, like it or not, but we need journalism to kick in and start telling the story from the beginning. This is about finding justice for a kid that was shot, an 18-year-old that was shot, period.

And this idea that because he stole a handful of cheap cigars, what's that worth, five bucks, from a convenience store? I lived in white suburbs of this country for a long time. I know plenty of white kids that steal stuff from the convenience store. There's plenty.

This idea that every time a black person does something, they automatically become a thug, worthy of their own death, when we don't own drug crimes. We're not the only ones that sell and do drugs all the time. We're not the only ones that steal. We're not the only ones that talk crazy to cops.

You know, there's a whole - there's a complete double standard and complete different experience that a certain element of this country gets -- has the privilege of being treated like human beings and other - and the rest of us are not treated like human beings, period. And that needs to be discussed. That is the story, all right? So that's where it gets frustrating I think for people because you don't know five black folks, five black men in particular that have not been harassed and felt threatened by police officers. You can't throw a rock and find five of them.

CROWLEY: Yes. Jesse Williams, I can't thank you enough --

WILLIAMS: We're not making this up.

CROWLEY: I absolutely understand. I hear you. I hope you will join in another conversation of this same ilk. I really appreciate your time. Thanks so much, Jesse Williams...

WILLIAMS: Thank you for having me.

CROWLEY: ...LZ Granderson....

WILLIAMS: Appreciate it.

CROWLEY: ....Tara Wall. I hope you'll stay with us because Texas governor, Rick Perry, is looking at a pair of felony indictments. He calls it a political stunt. We will hear from the head of the group whose complaint led to (ph) the criminal case.


CROWLEY: A potential road block for Texas Republican Rick Perry as he revs up what looks like another run for president.

A grand jury has charged the governor with two felony counts, saying he abused his power, and tried to coerce a local district attorney, a Democrat, to resign. His call came after D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg was convicted and jailed for a DUI last year. Her belligerent actions videotaped by authorities and went viral on YouTube. Saturday, Perry called his indictment a farce.

Joining us now is Craig McDonald, his group Texans for Public Justice, urged the courts to look into Perry's action.

Mr. McDonald, thank you so much.

I think on the face of it, when you boil this down and folks are looking at it, you have a D.A. who was spent time in jail for a DUI. She is in charge of the public corruption unit in a county in Texas, and the governor says, you know what? This woman should not be in office and I'm going to withhold funds for that office if she doesn't resign. It seems somewhat practical. Why is this a violation and an abuse of his power?

CRAIG MCDONALD, DIRECTOR, TEXANS FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE: Well, it's not his decision whether or not the district attorney from Travis County resigns.

The governor is doing a pretty good job to try to make this about her and her DWI conviction. But this has never been about his veto of her budget and about her. This is about his abuse of power and his coercion trying to get another publicity citizen to give up their job. So, it's not about the veto.

Yesterday in his press conference he came out and claimed that this was a challenge to his constitutional power to veto legislation. No one has ever made that claim, and the prosecutor actually after the press conference said, well apparently the governor hasn't read the indictments. The indictments are all about him using his official office to intimidate another public servant. Yes, the veto played a role but the role of the veto was what he hung over her head, Rosemary Lehmberg's head as a...


CROWLEY: But in the end -

MCDONALD: ...or a stick to get her to step down.

CROWLEY: In the end she did not step down but he followed through on...

MCDONALD: That's right.

CROWLEY: ...a veto.

So, you know, the question is, certainly he can't force her to resign. Clearly he can't because she stayed but he did use his veto power to register his disapproval.

MCDONALD: Yes, again, we have said all along it's not about the veto. We believe he had the right to veto it. It was his decision to veto it. It was about the intimidation before the veto. It was about him using the veto as a coercion tactic to get her to do something she didn't want to do, which was quit her job.

So, he has done a good job of being on message that he has the right to veto her budget. He does but again it was about his coercion and about his role in trying to use the veto against another public servant.

CROWLEY: In the end if he had just said, she needs to leave office, it's very clear to me she needs to leave office, and because, you know, she appeared DUI, she's in charge of public corruption, she needs to go. She doesn't go, and then he cuts the funds. Would that have been all right? It was the linkage of the two? Is that what you're telling me?

MCDONALD: Yes, it would have been all right if he vetoed the budget. Some people would have - would not have approved of that but it would have been legal. He strayed from trying to bully her out of office, he crossed the line into an illegal action. So, that was the harm here, it was not the veto itself.

CROWLEY: I want to play you something that Governor Perry said yesterday at a news conference responding to the indictment.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto, and I'll continue to defend this lawful action of my executive authority as governor. We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country. It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution.


CROWLEY: I want to put your group in the context that some of your critics say, and that is they see you as a liberal group that goes after Republicans, George W. Bush, when he was governor, Tom DeLay, another, as well as Governor Perry, so I want to put that out there, and then ask you, why this should not be seen as a big blinking red political light.

MCDONALD: Yes. Well, we have filed criminal complaints against politicians of both parties over the 16 years we've been in business. When we see corruption that's not being addressed by other means, we'll take some action on it.

The governor again in his defense yesterday said, this is merely a partisan political witch hunt. Nothing could be closer to the truth.

No politician in the prosecutor's office or the judicial system in Travis County has laid a hand on this. Our complaint went to the chief Republican judge, head of this judicial district, a Republican appointee of Governor Perry's. He turned it over and appointed a special judge, again, a Republican from San Antonio to oversee the matter. That Republican judge appointed a special prosecutor because he

thought the case had that merit. That special prosecutor is a Republican as well who served under George W. Bush. No Democrat has had a finger on this. So, for the governor to say this is merely a partisan witch hunt just doesn't stand in the face of the facts.

CROWLEY: I looked at the charges and the punishment that they carry. Let's assume this goes to trial. Let's assume they find the governor guilty of this. One of the charges he could get up to 10 years in jail. Another of the charges he could get up to 99 years in jail.

If he is guilty of what you say, do you think this governor deserves up to 10 years in jail, up to 99 years in jail?

MCDONALD: You know, that's not my decision. That's going to be up to the legal system. I don't have an opinion on what he would deserve as his punishment. Again, that's up to a jury of his peers and the prosecutors and the judges.

CROWLEY: But does it strike you as commensurate with what was done, they said, 10 years in jail for the governor?

MCDONALD: Right. Well, I think there's a large range for that. I think it's two years or $10,000 fine as well.

So, I don't know what penalty it deserves. He does deserve to be held accountable. He clearly in our minds and apparently the minds of other Republican jurists looks like he broke the law. He needs to be held accountable for that.

CROWLEY: Craig McDonald from Texans for Public Justice, thank you so much for your time this morning.

MCDONALD: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next, the implications for Governor Perry and the rest of the potential 2016 field.


CROWLEY: Back now with political strategist, Tara Wall, and CNN commentator, LZ Granderson.

So, Rick Perry over the weekend gets the news that he's been indicted for two felonies. We've just talked to the guy who started the ball rolling. Where does this go and what does (ph) it (ph) mean for 2016?

WALL: It's ridiculous political gamesmanship at its worst is all I can say.


WALL: Yes. I mean, it is -

GRANDERSON: (INAUDIBLE) the president I think topped that. So, I wouldn't call it the worst.


WALL: I think everyone recognizes this for what it really is. It is literally a political witch hunt. I mean, by every stretch. And when you start having Democrats like David Axelrod agree with you, I think we all know it for what it is.

The sad thing is it probably will have some impact and I think that's probably the intention. But he is well within his right as governor to exercise his executive authority, you know, in this case. You know, I think that's probably what will be found in the end. I mean, I don't want to, you know, get ahead of the case obviously or anything like that. I obviously have all the information with him as regards to the indictment, but I will say, you know, even if he is cleared of all of this, the whole point of it probably was and probably is to get him so muddled and mired and focusing on that that it could potentially whatever presidential run that he may or may not have could potentially impact that.

GRANDERSON: I'm sure that was part of the motivation why the indictments were brought. But there's also the fact that he was stupid, right? You don't go after the part of the government whose job it is is to investigate government impropriety. You don't do that. That doesn't make any sense to me.

WALL: But, you know, her office --

GRANDERSON: Well, she should resign.

WALL: Her office is the office of integrity.


WALL: And clearly defied all levels of integrity when she was found guilty of drunk driving -- went to jail.

GRANDERSON: I agree with you.

WALL: And so, I think the governor -- Perry warned her of what could happen if she did not resign. So, I think -- you know, I think --

GRANDERSON: But it's not her. It's the office.

WALL: Yes, the office. The office, you're (ph) correct.

GRANDERSON: That's the problem.

CROWLEY: OK. So, a quick exit question, and that is, does it hurt his 2016 chances? We assume he is going to run. Let's say he gets this cleared up. Obviously he's convicted, this is a problem, but if not net gain? Net loss?

GRANDERSON: The problem with Perry is I don't think, maybe you'll disagree with me, I just don't think he's a viable option for 2016 for the Republicans anyway in large part because his platform appeals to two groups of people that are dying off.


WALL: I think we're far enough out. We're far enough out. It could be cleared up and it may not have an impact. At some point the worst thing he wants - the worst thing he wants to see, Democrats will capitalize on (INAUDIBLE) the headline Perry indicted. And that's --

CROWLEY: That would be bad.

GRANDERSON: He still has overhead from his farm, too, so let's not forget about that.

CROWLEY: Tara Wall, LZ Granderson, come back. Appreciate it.

We'll be right back.