Sunday, July 07, 2013
Can We Trust the RCMP to Investigate Duffy-Wright-Harper?
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson sent a curious e-mail to his senior officers in March of this year.
In an email dated March 22 from Paulson to more than 50 chief superintendents, assistant commissioners and deputy commissioners, the commissioner said that meetings or lunches with parliamentarians "can have unintended and/or negative consequences for the organization and the government. Therefore, should you or your staff receive such requests, I am directing that you advise my office and the chief strategic policy and planning officer."
A second email shows the effect of the new policy. It cancels a planned lunch between a senior Mountie and a parliamentarian because of "direction from Commissioner Paulson's office" that such meetings "have to first be approved by the minister's office. This email is to cancel the luncheon."
Hmm, what was going on in March? Oh yes, the RCMP opened its investigation into the Cavendish Cottager, Senator Mike Duffy. That's the sort of thing that might have "unintended and/or negative consequences for the organization and the government."
When the CBC revealed the e-mails, NDP MP Randall Garrison was pretty outspoken. "It's not appropriate for the government to reach into the police operation. It's a very, very fundamental part of what we must be assured exists so that the police aren't doing the work of the government, they're doing the work of the public."
And it's certainly not appropriate for the government to throw a blanket of silence over the RCMP just when the RCMP is opening its biggest political investigation since the Mulroney era and one that goes straight inside the PMO and quite possibly even higher.
It is certainly helpful to keep the Toews/Paulson gag order in mind when digesting the contents of the sworn Information of RCMP Corporal Greg Horton.
In his Information, Horton relates a letter received from Nigel Wright's counsel stating that four senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office - the Chief of Staff, the Assistant Chief of Staff, the Director of Issue Management and the Chief Counsel who was also Harper's personal legal adviser, were all aware of the Wright-Duffy deal.
But here's the thing. Horton then seems to accept their implausible assertion that Harper knew nothing of it. He gives no basis for that except the assertions of people who were either principals in or privy to the commission of an apparent and serious crime. It's as though the fix was in.
This reminds me of those movie battle scenes where the King is beset by attackers and his bravest knights rally to his defence, sacrificing themselves to protect him. Yet Corporal Horton doesn't seem to explore that possibility.
Cops are trained to reject far-fetched excuses and bizarre coincidence to explain wrongdoing and exonerate logical suspects. Except, it seems, in this case.
"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."
That's a mouthful but no matter how many times you repeat it, you're still left without a clear idea of just what this guy does. Is he a spook, is he a cop, is he some hybrid? The important question is whether he's the right guy to investigate a crime and cover-up that could go straight into 24 Sussex Drive? Because, if Nigel Wright's apparently illegal under-the-table payment to Mike Duffy was done at Harper's behest or with Harper's approval, Harper might be a principal to any criminal wrongdoing.
I'd like to know that the RCMP doesn't consider the prime minister above the law. I thought Magna Carta did away with that. Harper may be channeling the spirit of Richard Nixon who told David Frost:
Harper didn't know, really? It was common knowledge among the top echelon of his own and nobody else's, the prime minister's PMO. It was common knowledge to the half of Ottawa on Mike Duffy's e-mail list. The Conservative Fund knew of it. Senior Tory senators were in on it. The Ottawa legal community was in on it. Wright's cheque was apparently processed through the trust account of a senior Ottawa law firm.
But, apparently as far as the RCMP is concerned, the prime minister knew nothing. Sideshow Steve didn't know and, even as this scandal was exploding in his face, no one told him, presumably because he didn't ask, presumably because he already knew everything. Nothing to see here, move along.
If you're going to closely follow this business, here's a tip. From here on in, a good deal of what happens is going to be obscure, nuanced. You're going to have to read between the lines without jumping to conclusions.
There are back stories in play here. Corporal Horton's Information notes that it has not yet been determined whether Nigel Wright is a suspect or a witness. Investigators have met with Wright's lawyers. Those lawyers have, in turn, furnished the RCMP with a letter implicating three other top PMO officials in the Duffy scandal. Is Wright willing to roll over on senior PMO staff and possibly Harper himself to avoid a career-ending criminal mess? Don't jump to conclusions but that is a possibility.
What will Duffy's lawyers do? They're a high-powered Ottawa firm. It appears a senior partner in that firm received Wright's cheque, possibly ran it through the firm trust account, and then made payment on behalf of their client to the Receiver-General. There's an awful lot that could emerge from that. Don't jump to conclusions but that is a possibility.
There are a lot of important people who need to answer some difficult questions including the PMO Quartet. If they talk, and it's by no means certain or even probable that they will, they'll run the risk of criminal prosecution for obstruction if they lie. Everybody at this point has to wonder what everyone else knows, what everyone else might tell investigators, what records and documents might emerge? It's pretty hard to trust people when this starts.