AUSTIN, Texas – Republican Gov. Rick Perry (search) had a greater role than he previously revealed in the hunt for more than 50 Democratic lawmakers who left the state to block passage of a bill, according to testimony from a state trooper.
Lt. Will Crais, who led the search last month, said in a deposition released Wednesday that Perry was impatient with the search's progress and at one point gave troopers a tip on where to find one of the missing legislators.
Texas Department of Public Safety (search) documents released separately Tuesday indicated that Perry had personal contact with DPS officers during the search, ordered by Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick.
Fifty-five Democrats disappeared into Oklahoma for nearly a week to prevent a quorum in the House, blocking debate on a Republican bill to redraw congressional districts -- a task usually done once a decade, after the census.
Crais testified that during the search for the legislators Perry handed him a letter saying the newborn twins of missing state Rep. Craig Eiland were at a Galveston hospital. Crais testified that the governor told him, "I want the Texas Rangers to go by and locate Mr. Eiland."
Perry had downplayed his role, suggesting his office's only involvement was in trying to determine whether extradition from out of state was possible.
This week, Perry did not deny issuing orders that resulted in troopers searching for Democrats.
"You betcha, I told the DPS to follow the instructions of this speaker ... follow the law," the governor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Tuesday. He said he ordered public safety officials to do "whatever the DPS needed to do ... to retrieve House members."
The transcript of Crais' testimony, released by the attorney general's office, was taken in a lawsuit by another quorum-busting Democrat, state Rep. Lon Burnam. The suit alleges that the public safety department improperly destroyed documents generated during the search.
Deputy Attorney General Jeff Boyd, who is representing the department, said he plans to ask a judge to dismiss Burnam's suit.
The public safety department's documents -- dozens of pages of notes, faxes, internal memoranda and e-mails -- survived an internal order that the records be destroyed. A grand jury is investigating that matter.
Meanwhile, a state trooper who called the federal Homeland Security Department (search) into the search for a legislator's plane testified that he acted alone with no direction from superiors, according to two officials who sat in on his deposition.