Saturday, April 23, 2016

Commissioner Paulson, a Quick Question.

Few have had a chance to go through the 800 plus emails and other documents that were before the court in the Duffy trial. Few had the benefit of sitting through the ten weeks of trial. We should consider ourselves fortunate that Justice Vaillancourt left us with a 308-page decision full of a review of salient evidence, detailed legal analysis and well thought out decisions. For most of us that's the best window into this affair we could hope for.

Read the reasons for judgment if you want more information on the 31-verdicts. It's all there. What may be more relevant, however, are the findings - evidence based - that detail how the backroom deal was engineered, how it backfired into scandal and how that led to a criminal investigation and charges. That's the important stuff.

There's enough in Justice Vaillancourt's reasons that you can look at each player individually, especially the key players - Duffy, Nigel Wright and the man ever lurking nearby in the shadows, Stephen Harper. You can also explore it from various aspects - from the aspect of an imperial premiership, from the aspect of a ruthless backroom organization, from the aspect of a beleaguered Senator, among others. You can view it as an exercise in bare knuckle politics, an elaborate crime and more.

We know that Duffy was cleared of all 31 alleged crimes but that begs the question of whether there were others - other crimes, other criminals? Surely the state doesn't spend 10-weeks in court without some conviction that crimes have been committed. Which suggests that maybe, just maybe, they got the wrong guy. Is it possible that the fix was in? Is it possible that they gave the real criminals a pass?

Let's look at some of the facts that came out in the reasons. Start with the fact that Duffy, from the outset, even before he accepted the appointment, queried the prime minister about his eligibility to sit on behalf of his native province, Prince Edward Island. He gets assured by the prime minister that he fully qualifies. He follows up with the Tory Senate leader, LeBreton. She assures him he qualifies. The Law Clerk of the Senate does likewise. He has it from their mouths and he gets it in writing. Okay, fair enough. Duffy becomes the newly minted senator for Prince Edward Island.

Then it comes down to the out of town housing allowance and per diems. Justice Vaillancourt found that Duffy balked but he was pressured into going along by Tory senator, Dave Tkachuk (who previously served as principal secretary to Saskatchewan premier, Grant Devine). Tkachuk told Duffy not just that he was entitled to these benefits but that he had to claim them lest he made other senators look bad.

A couple of years pass and unfavourable comments begin to appear in the papers questioning whether Duffy is really eligible to represent Prince Edward Island and just why is a guy who has resided in Ottawa for almost all of his working life pocketing out of town living expenses and per diems? The Senate calls in auditors.

Harper can't abide the controversy. Duffy is worth his weight in campaign contribution cheques. He's the goose who laid golden eggs for the Tories and helped win them seats. Duffy must be protected.

Harper tells Duffy he's got to pay it all back. Duffy resists. Nigel Wright tells Duffy to pay. Duffy resists. The rest pile on. Duffy resists. Duffy's argument is "hey, I did nothing wrong." Harper told him what he was doing was just fine. LeBreton told him the same thing. Ditto for the Law Clerk of the Senate. Same, same for Tkachuk. They had been approving his housing allowance and per diem expenses every month, month after month. Now they want him to pay back something he should not have taken? Why? Because Conservative voters would not understand.

Then someone leaks Duffy's email to confidantes in which he describes the deal that Harper and his minions have arranged for him. They want to head this controversy off at the pass. The deal is that they will give Duffy funds to pay off his Senate tab. Duffy is then to stop making public statements and stop cooperating with the auditors. The PMO will then ensure that the audit report "goes easy on me."

It's in the evidence that Duffy resisted, that Duffy insisted he had done nothing wrong. He held out. Here you go to the police interviews. Nigel Wright and others said that Duffy had to be "forced" to "capitulate." They as much as confirmed what Duffy said under oath at trial - that he was told he either folded and went along with the deal or the Tory leadership in the Senate would declare him constitutionally unfit to hold office.

There's the inducement, there's the threat. It's plain as day. It comes straight out of their own mouths. It's in their emails. That, in my opinion, is the genesis of the crime. It's not a crime of bribery. The crime is extortion of a public official. "You do everything we say or you lose your job and we'll turf you out the door in disgrace." That's pretty powerful stuff.

That email, the one leaked to CTV's Bob Fife, was, in my opinion, the smoking gun. It's the yardstick against which everything else said and done subsequent to its publication is to be measured. Why? Two critical reasons. It contains the basic outline of a transaction, each element of which came to pass before it was leaked. Equally important is that it was contemporaneous. Duffy was describing the deal that had just been put in place. It was the deal that those who later admitted they had "forced" it on him said that he finally "capitulated" to.

That email was sent with the intention and belief that the recipients would keep it confidential. The information was never expected, no matter how unwisely, to see the light of day. And it was contemporaneous with the events described. In the saga that unfolded after it was leaked, that email remained absolutely consistent with what Duffy said. It was his accusers and, in my opinion, the investigators who stood logic and reality on its head to circumvent it. Their stories became progressively more contrived, inconsistent and contradictory. They never, none of them, ever came close to refuting the email that upheld Duffy's account.

The deal was an act of extortion. But for Duffy's foolish email, it might have remained - as it was intended by the principals to be - concealed. The public was never to know about it and the whole thing, carefully stage-managed was expected to blow over. The fundraiser would be back in harness in no time. After having gone along with that, after capitulating, he'd be in so deep he would never be able to refuse them again.

But Duffy hadn't kept his mouth shut as he had promised. Worse, he let his confidantes, and though one of them the public,  see the inner workings of the Harper PMO laid bare. After that the exercise went from protecting Harper's "most valuable" senator to defending the prime minister, his PMO and the Tory leadership in the Senate.

Before the leak, Harper's minions praised Duffy for doing the "right thing" and making restitution. At first Harper praised Nigel Wright in the same terms for picking up the senator's tab. Then Harper praised Nigel Wright for doing the honourable thing and resigning. Then Harper sunk his fangs into Wright, denouncing him for a scoundrel and reprobate and claiming that Harper was so angry at Wright's betrayal that he fired him on the spot. Three accounts, all of them inconsistent, none of them reconcilable - classic "Harper on the run."

Then the story transformed into one in which Duffy shook down the PMO. Duffy demanded a bribe. He wanted money. He would bring them all down if they didn't pay him off. There was no mention of Duffy refusing, resisting, being "forced" or how he "capitulated." No, no, no, no, no. (which Justice Vaillancourt later corrected to read "YES, YES, YES, YES, YES and YES).

[1029] The email traffic that has been produced at this trial causes me to pause and ask myself, “Did I actually have the opportunity to see the inner workings of the PMO?”

[1030] Was Nigel Wright actually ordering senior members of the Senate around as if they were mere pawns on a chessboard?

[1031] Were those same senior members of the Senate meekly acquiescing to Mr. Wright’s orders?

[1032] Were those same senior members of the Senate robotically marching forth to recite their provided scripted lines?

[1033] Did Nigel Wright really direct a Senator to approach a senior member of an accounting firm that was conducting an independent audit of the Senate with the intention to either get a peek at the report or part of the report prior to its release to the appropriate Senate authorities or to influence that report in anyway?

[1034] Does the reading of these emails give the impression that Senator Duffy was going to do as he was told or face the consequences?

[1035] The answers to the aforementioned questions are: YES; YES; YES; YES; YES; and YES!!!!!

Para 972:  "...Wright and Woodcock would never have stated that Senator Duffy was “forced” to go along with the PMO scenario if, as the Crown seeks to argue, Senator Duffy had authored the terms. Nigel Wright’s immediate response to this summary (to his PMO subordinates), evidences that Mr. Wright has pre-arranged these terms; they are his terms of capitulation. Mr. Wright’s frank concession that these were “forced” on Senator Duffy is important evidence as to their true provenance. (email #181)."

Now, let's get back to the RCMP and commissioner Bob Paulson. To my mind he has a lot of explaining to do and he'd better come up with some very good answers.

The RCMP has had a shady history of dealings that suggest they've been in the bag for Stephen Harper. This goes back to then commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli and the 2005 federal election that saw Harper come to power. In the midst of the election campaign, Zaccardelli informed the NDP that Ralph Goodale was under criminal investigation for allegedly leaking budget secrets. It had the effect of re-energizing the Sponsorship Scandal. Oh those Liberals, a new leader but the same old scams. Out with the bums.

After Harper ascended to the throne, MPs wanted to know why Zaccardelli had interfered with the election, especially as he quickly recanted, after the votes were tallied, any suggestion of wrongdoing by Goodale. Zaccardelli's response? He refused to answer the Parliamentary committee. He just stared them down and went on his way. From then on it appeared we were now dealing with the Royal Conservative Mounted Police.

Flash forward to commissioner Bob Paulson and the Duffy scandal. From the outset, Paulson moved to gag his senior officers. An email was sent to each absolutely prohibiting them from having any contact with MPs or Senators without the express prior approval of an office control of which was shared by Paulson and public security minister, Vic Toews. We only learned of the gag order when a copy of Paulson's directive was leaked to the CBC. After the Zaccardelli affair and now a gag order for pretty obviously partisan purposes, a cynic could be excused for suspecting the fix was already in.

Paulson sent in investigators from the aptly named "sensitive investigations" unit. The front man was corporal Greg Horton, a 21-year veteran of the force, who in an affidavit stated:

"I am currently assigned to Sensitive and International Investigations within the National Division of the RCMP, responsible for investigating matters of significant risk to Canada's political, economic and social integrity." 

Right you are, corporal Greg.

Now, we got to see a number of affidavits sworn by corporal Greg as he went through an exhaustive investigation, interviewing the principals, other witnesses and getting in many hundreds of pages of documents including a massive pile of emails.

And, based on the same interviews and documents later presented in court and reviewed by Justice Vaillancourt, what conclusions did corporal Bob and commissioner Bob come to? 

They screwed up their courage and introduced Canadians to the "immaculate bribe" theory. The RCMP "had their man" alright. It was that Dastardly Duffy, the pernicious practitioner of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, 31 crimes in all.

Hmm. Bribery, okay, but where's the other guy? Duffy took a bribe, we get that. Who gave him the bribe? No one? Apparently not. If anyone found the whole Harper narrative bizarre, Paulson trumped it with the "immaculate bribe" in which their was no bribe given but merely accepted. And, yes, it was about as believable as the "immaculate conception." Right up there.

The idea was that Duffy demanded money. He demanded a bribe. The $90,000 he got from Wright was a bribe but only when it reached Duffy's hands. Everyone else involved in this sordid business - Nigel Wright, the rest of the PMO bosses, the Tory Senate leadership, Arthur Hamilton and, of course, the Prince of Darkness, they were on the side of the Angels, utterly beyond reproach.

Now just how many fucking hoops do you have to jump through to get from the clear evidence corporal Greg had amassed to the conclusion that Duffy was the lone gunman, the perpetrator of such high crimes and misdemeanours? Again, a word or two from Justice Vaillancourt:

[1101] The beginning of the eventual payment goes back to the murky uncertainty regarding Senator Duffy’s claim regarding his primary residence and claims resulting from that designation.

[1102] The underlying message of, “We’re asking, basically forcing someone to repay money that, uh. That they probably didn’t owe and I wanted the Prime Minister to know that, be comfortable with that:” keeps on resonating with me.

[1107] Senator Duffy continued throughout to maintain that he did not owe any money and that all his expenses were proper. He wanted the Deloitte firm to hear his side of the story. He begged not to have to go through with the plan.

[1108] The PMO employed a two – pronged approach to deal with Senator Duffy. The primary approach involved the use of a steady stream of threats and pressure being applied from all quarters. These have been well documented throughout this judgment.

This all comes out of evidence that corporal Greg and commissioner Bob had in their laps. Forcing someone to repay money they knew he probably didn't owe. Duffy resisting, begging to be allowed to state his case to the auditors. Steady stream of threats and pressure being applied from all quarters to compel his capitulation.

And yet these seasoned officers, our top law enforcement officials, concluded that Duffy and Duffy alone committed all of these imaginary offences.

[1111] I find based on all of the evidence that Senator Duffy was forced into accepting Nigel Wright’s funds so that the government could rid itself of an embarrassing political fiasco that just was not going away.

[1112] I find that Senator Duffy did not demonstrate a true acceptance of the funds and he did not accept them voluntarily. Throughout the entire “Scenario”, Senator Duffy was kicking and screaming to have the issues dealt with in an appropriate forum. However, as a result of the coordinated and threatening efforts of the PMO, his free will was overwhelmed and he capitulated.

[1113] I find that there was no corrupt acceptance of the funds by Senator Duffy and he did not have the necessary elevated mental culpability or mens rea required to support a conviction on this count.

[1114] I agree that this entire “Scenario” was not for the benefit of Senate Duffy but rather, it was for the benefit of the government and the PMO. This was damage control at its finest.

How commissioner Bob do you explain this? Was someone scripting your role too? How, commissioner Bob, do you dig yourself out from under this? -

[1209] I find that Senator Duffy did not receive a true advantage or benefit and that the true recipients of any benefit (the disappearance of a political embarrassment) are Nigel Wright, the PMO, the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party of Canada.

[1239] Mr. Neubauer stated that Senator Duffy’s actions were driven by deceit, manipulations and carried out in a clandestine manner representing a serious and marked standard expected of a person in Senator Duffy’s position of trust. I find that if one were to substitute the PMO, Nigel Wright and others for Senator Duffy in the aforementioned sentence that you would have a more accurate statement.

Me, I'm sticking with my original theory. In an early affidavit, corporal Greg presented the bribery theory, identifying Duffy as guilty of accepting a bribe and Nigel Wright as culpable of making the bribe.

A good deal of time passed after that during which, I'm told, Nigel Wright was very active in Ottawa circles, telling all and sundry that, if he was charged with bribery, he wouldn't lie to protect anyone, which was taken to be a reference to his former boss, prime minister Harper.

Nigel Wright had to be taken off the hook lest he implicate his co-conspirators all the way up to and including the Prince of Darkness. Awkward and unbelievable as it is, the "immaculate bribe" is fabricated. Wright is taken off the hook and along with him, the rest of the cast. After months of hanging around Ottawa, Wright gets what he wanted and within a day or two he's winging his way to Heathrow. 


Boris said...

This is Canada: nothing will happen. The ranking Bob will keep his job. The Grits will consider this old hat and do nothing (even Goodale). The RCMP and Crown won't further investigate or lay new charges. The only hope is if Duffy comes tries to pursue a case of malicious prosecution.

Boris said...

Neil Macdonald has this up:

the salamander said...

.. one could easily ask why a guy from Vancouver Island - an indy blogger - is supplying the incisive analysis, reportage & journalism that Canadians should expect from mainstream journalists or news media. Paulson & his RCMP have a lot to answer for - their recent history is riddled with failure & its truly suspect exactly why they still exist in their current form & who they actually represent. Of course its easy to explain if Paulson decided he worked for Stephen Harper or Big Energy .. and not for the Canadian people..

Even at this point.. it seems extremely odd how the wagons were circled by and around Stephen Harper et al.. whether re Afghanistan Torture & related proroguing.. or Complete Deceit re Budget items, or the Great Election Fraud.. or Procurement, or now the Duffy Scandal. The Justice system as related to the RCMP was groomed, gamed and turned inside out.. Its simply stunning..

I suspect there's more to come.. even a lot more. The names keep repeating - scandal after scandal - Harper, Novak, Wright, PMO, Paulson, Hamilton, Toews, McKay, Van Loan, Byrne, all the senior Conservative senators.. and the seemingly nameless but countless partisan jackals who eagerly served them for money & power or position

The Mound of Sound said...

You could be right, there could be more. That's certainly what I've been hearing for more than a year now.

A lot depends on Duffy's health yet that's said to be precarious now. We shall see.