New Hampshire’s Sununu defends Gov. Rick Perry, calls indictment ‘insane’


Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the 2014 Red State Gathering in Fort Worth, Tex. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

The grand poobah of Republican politics in crucial New Hampshire is strongly defending Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), calling a grand jury indictment against Perry "insane" and "blatantly wrong and dishonest."

John H. Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire and White House chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, embraced Perry in an interview with The Washington Post and said he plans to introduce the 2016 presidential hopeful when he visits New Hampshire later this week.

A grand jury indicted Perry last week on felony charges that he abused his office and tried to coerce an elected district attorney to resign. Perry and his legal team have vowed to fight the charges.

In the interview, Sununu said the charges are "an abuse of power" and the result of the "stupidity of a Democratic district attorney" — a reference to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg (D).

John Sununu, right, and Mitt Romney. (Jim Cole - AP)
John Sununu, right, and Mitt Romney. (Jim Cole/AP)

Sununu said that Democrats have "decided that the only way they can come out from under the burden of the disaster of the Obama presidency is to find some nitpicking way to claim wrongdoing on the part of any Republican that announces for president. They tried to do it to [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie, they tried to do it to [Wisconsin Gov.] Scott Walker, they’re trying to do it to Rick Perry, and I suspect you'll just see a whole parade of these as the Democrats try to execute this smear-the-candidates strategy.”

Sununu charged that former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is inching toward what many Democrats see as an inevitable presidential run in 2016, should speak out against the Perry indictment.

“Let me tell you who the indictment really hurts: It hurts Hillary Clinton," Sununu said. "She has to see that this is nothing but an abuse of power by a county D.A. and her operatives there. This is a constitutional right that a governor has, and for them to somehow twist it into a way where they can claim that an indictment is an appropriate response to it is insane. Any responsible Democrat that wants to run for president and doesn't condemn it, I personally think that disqualifies them from running for president.”

Clinton has not spoken publicly about the Perry indictment. A spokesman for Clinton did not respond to a request for comment about Sununu's remarks.

Sununu plans to introduce Perry at what's being billed as a "Victory Rally" for local and state Republicans on Saturday morning in Stratham, N.H., where coffee and doughnuts will be served.

Sununu is a powerful figure in New Hampshire, which hosts the nation's first presidential primary. But he said his support for Perry this week does not mean he is endorsing the Texas governor for president in 2016. Sununu said that five or six potential candidates have come to his house in Hampton Falls for coffee to seek his advice in recent months.

"I'm not ready to be impressed by anybody at this stage," Sununu said. "I'm just the 'Welcome to New Hampshire' guy at this point."

In the 2012 campaign, Sununu was an early backer and surrogate for the eventual nominee, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. When Perry and former House speaker Newt Gingrich went after Romney over his tenure at Bain Capital, Sununu called them "socialist attacks" and said Perry and Gingrich sounded like "guys coming out of the left wing."

Perry will make at least six stops during his two-day swing through New Hampshire. On Friday, he will address a luncheon of business leaders in Portsmouth, an Americans for Prosperity event in Manchester designed to criticize the state's business climate, and an evening GOP reception in Nashua.

Perry will begin the day Saturday at the Stratham rally, then will attend a "Defend Freedom Pork Roast" at the fairgrounds in Rochester and a Merrimack County GOP picnic at the Chichester home of former U.S. senator Gordon J. Humphrey and his wife, Patty.

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