Saturday, November 12, 2016
How Nigel Wright Got a Pass
It's an interesting story but hardly convincing. When the RCMP went after senator Mike Duffy for supposed bribery it left people shaking their heads. How could Duffy have committed the crime of bribery for receiving Nigel Wright's $90-thousand without Wright being criminally responsible for giving the bribe? It became known as the "immaculate bribe."
Newly released documents show the RCMP gave Wright "a pass" in order to secure Harper's ex-chief of staff's testimony against Duffy. They let the little fish go in order to catch the big fish.
Two things wrong with this story. In the months between Wright's resignation turned firing (remember how Harper changed his story on that?) and the RCMP announcement that he would not be charged, supposedly because he'd done nothing wrong, I kept getting word from a well placed Ottawa conservative that Wright was making the rounds socially and telling the conservative fold that, if he was charged, he would tell all. The message , I'm told, was that he would implicate Harper as not merely knowing everything but as the directing, and hence criminal, mind. The "bribe" was all about making a political problem go away.
Wright hung around Ottawa those several months basically doing nothing but waiting for the "all clear" from the RCMP. Literally the day after he was taken off the hook, he headed for the airport.
Here's something to remember. You can't make sense of this scandal without recalling how it broke in the first place. It began with an incredibly foolish email Duffy sent to his inner circle (seemingly half of Ottawa) about the deal that had been cooked up in the PMO. It unveiled all the essential elements of the deal. Duffy would be given cash to square away his Senate debt. But there was more. He was to immediately cease cooperating with the Senate auditors. And the PMO would see to it that the Senate audit report "went easy on" old Duff.
Duffy's email was sent contemporaneously with the deal. It's the marker. Afterward each and every element of the deal came to pass. It was only well after the plan was implemented that someone leaked the email to CTV's Bob Fife. That critical email did not evidence some bribe. There was no scheme hatched by Duffy. The scheme, quite plainly, was the doing of the PMO - Wright and Harper. Remember these are the RCMP's top investigators and the commissioner who supposedly were blinded to the obvious.
The second problem is that, as Justice Vaillancourt observed, Duffy wasn't bribed at all. Duffy was ordered to take the money, pay off his Senate tab, and make the story die. But Vaillancourt went further. He said that a crime had indeed been perpetrated, just not by Duffy.
Remember that Duffy was acquitted of all 31 charges brought against him. The very number is astonishing. 31 charges, all of them groundless? 31 acquittals, that's not a matter of misjudgment or oversight. That's a political persecution, a deliberate effort to bury the guy. That's what Harper had said they would do if Duffy didn't play ball. And the RCMP were in on it. They had to be.
Wright was taken off the hook because he had to be. When he was off the hook so too were the prime minister, the Senate leadership, and everyone else in the PMO. The RCMP didn't do it gracefully. It was extraordinarily clumsy. They had to invent a new crime, the immaculate bribe. But it staunched the bleeding within the PMO, the Senate leadership and the Tory party. God save the King.