Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Day Stephen Harper's Story Fell Apart

He fought back against his accusers like a cornered animal. He tried to smear them by accusing them of criminal acts, even of being communists.

He fudged his answers, and repeated his talking points over and over again.

But he could not deny the allegations contained in this report.

The RCMP is alleging that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff breached the criminal code when he made a secret $90,000 payment to Senator Mike Duffy in a bid to put a lid on a spending scandal.

Or that while there is no written evidence so far that he knew of the Wright payment, he did know that the Conservative Party was taking steps to solve Duffy's problem by using money from party funds.

The court records suggest that Mr. Harper was briefed on a deal that would have seen the Conservative Party make the reimbursement on Mr. Duffy’s behalf this spring. Mr. Wright said in newly released e-mails that he would “speak to the PM before everything is considered final,” in reference to a proposed five-point deal with Mr. Duffy in place in late February.

That he gave that plan the green light.

On February 22, Mr. Wright sent an email to members of the Prime Minister’s Office stating that he had obtained approval for his plans as long as PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin and Mr. Duffy’s lawyer, Janice Payne, were on board. “We are good to go from the PM once Ben has his confirmation from Payne,” Mr. Wright wrote.

Even though it was the same plan that Nigel Wright later paid, and if one was a crime so should be the other.

And that later, according to Wright he did know in broad terms that he was assisting Mike Duffy.

When the media asked questions on the matter to the PMO in May, Mr. Wright told his colleagues in an e-mail: “The PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy when I was getting him to agree to repay the expenses.” Mr. Harper has always argued that he was not informed – and would not have approved – of Mr. Wright’s decision to repay the expenses on Mr. Duffy’s behalf.

For what does "personally assisted" mean?

Furthermore the report also shows that when Harper claimed that nobody else in the PMO apart from Nigel Wright knew about this plan he was lying. At least twelve top Con operatives were involved.

And that when the Harperites claimed there was no paper trail on the scandal there was in fact one involving more than two thousand e-mails. So as I pointed out last night we still need to know who ordered that they not be made available to reporters  who filed access to information requests.

Or came up with the Orwellian story that they didn't exist. Because that in itself will constitute evidence of a cover-up.

And that in the meantime, the evidence appears to show that the PMO was deeply involved in trying to whitewash a Senate report on Duffy.

According to the RCMP, the Prime Minister’s Office faced a “problem” given that the draft audit criticized Mr. Duffy. The Prime Minister's Office then allegedly “influenced senators (David) Tkachuk, (Carolyn) Stewart Olsen, and (Marjory) LeBreton to change the report to reflect wording that the PMO wanted.”

And so was the Conservative's chief bagman Irving Gerstein.

So although there is still no smoking gun, no written evidence, directly linking Harper to the Wright cheque, he cannot escape the responsibility for the actions of his office.

"That's what we have been trying to make Mr. Harper understand from the beginning of this sordid affair," NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters. "It’s always Stephen Harper that's the source of the problem but he's always looking for someone to blame."

Which has been revealed through the good work of Corporal Horton to be a cesspool of political corruption.

With Stephen I Know Nothing Harper's story hanging by a slender thread.

So: how stands that slender thread after today? Answer: still there, barely, but fraying by the hour.

Whatever might be meant by Wright’s later email to a colleague, that “the PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy when I was getting him to agree to repay the expenses,” and regardless of the officer’s statement, offered elsewhere, that “I have seen no evidence to suggest that the Prime Minister was personally involved in the minutiae of those matters,” it seems clear that he knew a great deal more than he has let on. Which was, you will remember, nothing.

A slender thread that is still in danger of snapping, because the RCMP has requested many more e-mails from the Senate.

And all it would take is one of them to further implicate Harper and he will hang with the rest of them.

If you wish to read the RCMP report you can read it here.

But what is already clear is that the moment is approaching when the force will have to lay charges.

This is now a criminal investigation not just into Duffy and Wright's actions, but into Stephen Harper's office, the Con Senate's leaders and what can only be described as a massive cover-up.

This scandal isn't going away.

Try as he might, Stephen Harper cannot wipe the mess that is the Senate spending scandal from his shoe. It has already eclipsed his government’s political agenda and torn a gaping hole in the prime minister’s claim to govern with “integrity and transparency.” Now it threatens to spread further, involving more and more of his top officials and political operatives.

Canadians will NEVER believe that he didn't know what was going on.

And whether by legal means or political ones.

Sooner or later his corruption WILL destroy him....

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  1. .. exceptional analysis & reportage Simon .. as always, crackling sharp.. & delivered with fervor .. !
    You've been all over this story.. this sad excuse for government.. merci beaucoup !!!

    1. hi salamander...thanks a lot, I have to admit that I'm feeling pretty good myself, for having had the strength to write it. Because when I crawled home on all fours today, and then saw that the RCMP affidavit was 80 pages long it almost finished me off. ;)
      But yes, isn't the story a fascinating look into the rotten heart of the Con regime? Harper may escape legal sanction, in Harperland you never know. But he will not escape its political consequences....

    2. Are you guys serious, really? Six months ago to the day I wrote that the linch pin to this was not Duffy, or Harper or even Wright, but Benjamin Perrin. For six months we've endured endless bullshit, particularly from guys who have a raging hard-on for Harper and can't let that go.

      We all have an obligation to study, explore, learn and inform ourselves. You can never succeed but at least you have ot make the effort to strive for it. That;s the exception, not the rule.

    3. hi mound...I'm sorry I don't quite understand what you're getting at. Are salamander and I serious? Yes I think we are. And is Perrin the linch pin of this conspiracy? No he is not. He might have been brought in to cross the t's and write up the paper work. But it's very doubtful that he was involved in any of the political decisions. And if you don't mind me saying so, I find your remarks a trifle condescending. I find your hostility to younger Canadians, which is matched only by your high opinion of yourself, a real turn off. And is in my case totally off the mark. For dare I say I know more about politics than you do. And I have been blogging for almost a year longer than you have. Have a nice day...

    4. Anonymous9:11 AM

      Simon don't let the MOS get you down. You're a very good blogger, and he's probably just jealous.

    5. hi anon...thanks for the encouraging words, and don't worry I won't let the Mound get me down. He's been very rude to me before, and don't ask me why because I've never said anything bad about him. Oh well, that's life, and on we go....

  2. e.a.f.9:33 PM

    you can full all of the people some of the time. you can fool some some people all the time. but you can't fool all the people all of the time. the chickens have come home to roost and it looks good on Mr. Harper. Now will he check out of the p.m.o.

    1. hi e.a.f...I'm afraid he will not check out of the Harper motel unless he is pushed by the police. But it will degrade the Con brand further, so I wouldn't be surprised if he comes up with something spectacular to try to distract attention away from the scandal. Like some divisive issue, a referendum, or even an early election. As long as that maniac and his foul regime are in power, we must be prepared for anything...

  3. Anonymous11:36 PM

    Maybe harpie could just have some of his wingnut pals fly a plane into the CN Tower. You know, a new "war on terror" or has Ranger Against War says, a new P.W.O.T. (Phoney War On Terror). Keeps on working for the 'murkans and gawd knows, harpie's whole criminal, traitorous reign has been drawn directly from their playbook.

    1. hi anon...I don't think he'd go that far, because for one thing his wingnut pals are so dumb they'd probably miss the tower and take out Rob Ford's office instead. But you can be absolutely sure he will find a divisive issue to try to distract us from his problems. I'm betting on the death penalty myself. For he is crazy and he is dangerous....

  4. Hi Simon - I believe Mound is correct about Perrin in this sense - it is Perrin's involvement that makes Harper's story of knowing nothing so difficult to believe. In is very unlikely that Perrin would have assisted unless he was sure the the PM knew and approved. Thus Wright's emails saying he wants to get the PM's approval, and the next one saying that "we have the go ahead from the PM." Now unless Wright was lying just to get Perrin to do the work, it seems that Perrin's involvement confirm's Harper's knowledge. In this sense Perrin could be the crux of the matter.

    1. hi he isn't. Perrin is as I said just the guy who handles the paper work for the PMO. He's not Harper's personal lawyer, and he would have not made the political decision. Like most crummy members of the so-called legal profession he's just a paper shuffler. It would however be good to read his e-mails, but as you may know they were deleted when he left, in contravention of the rules of Parliament. And please remember the Mound is the guy who claimed recently that Jason Kenney was speaking for Harper when he attacked Rob Ford. When in fact it was just a way to feather his leadership ambitions. And have you nothing to say about the way that pompous asshole attacked me? Why? Answer me that one....

  5. Simon - Wow, I didn't expect profanity and this degree of negativity from you. I didn't read what he said as a viscous and pompous attack. Either way, I wasn't interested in ad hominem or personal issues. I was presenting a position that I think makes sense and you seem to be misinterpreting or misunderstanding the thrust of this contention, or simply disregarding it out of hand. When I say the crux of the matter, I am saying this in terms of tying the PM to the knowledge of the bribery, not in terms of his actual importance to the event itself. It is not relevant that he is, as you say, simply a paper pusher. In fact, that is precisely why he is important to the scenario. Because of his paper pushing, legal status, it is very unlikely that he would engage in this activity without confirming that the PM knew. Remember, Perrin is a professor of law at UBC and has a significant reputation. He would have felt much safer if he thought the PM knew what was going on. Perrin didn't play a large role in the conspiracy, rather the small role he did play confirms to the legally minded that Harper must have known or at least that Wright was telling people that Harper was in the loop and approved. That is the argument, and I think it is cogent and makes sense. As for the other stuff, using words like A**hole suggest that you are just as willing to engage in the rhetoric as Mound. Furthermore, claiming that Mound has been wrong about one issue is not a meaningful argument of why is wrong about another. Even the best minds are wrong much of the time, especially when dealing with political speculation. I am sure I have been wrong as often as I have been right.

    1. hi Kirby...look I don't deny that Perrin is an important cog in the puzzle, or that his testimony couldn't be very damning. But the way the PMO works, even though he was Harper's counsel, in practice he worked for Wright. If Wright told him to do something he would assume that Harper was onside. Why would he not? And as for the Mound please don't put words in my mouth. I never said it was vicious just pompous and absurd. He may have a good point but he didn't have to say it that way.

      I mean read this again:

      We all have an obligation to study, explore, learn and inform ourselves. You can never succeed but at least you have ot make the effort to strive for it. That's the exception, not the rule.

      Who does he think he is? Suggesting I'm not serious. Serious about what? And then lecturing me in such a condescending manner, as if I hadn't paid my dues as a blogger, or as if I was some kind of young idiot. The kind he's always going on about "the worst generation blah blah blah.." As I mentioned above the Mound of All Wisdom has been very rude to me before. And on one occasion left a comment that I considered aggressively homophobic, which is why I don't frequent his blog. Which is a pity because I like some of his stuff, especially the stuff about the environment. But as I said I've paid my dues, I've blogged without interruption for eight years, I know a lot about politics because I've worked hard to inform myself, I always try to be polite to those who leave comments even if I strongly disagree with them. But I don't like being treated in a condescending manner, I demand a little basic respect, and if attacked I will defend myself...

  6. Simon, I certainly didn't mean to put words in your mouth. I was just using the characterization not verbatim. And I have always tried to display respect even upon occasions of disagreement. I obviously didn't know about any back story to these events and I obviously wouldn't tolerate homophobia either. Putting the back story aside (because I don't have that information), I agree that the comment could be read as condescending, but I just didn't read it that way. Rather I read it as an appeal to like-minded people that we need to be diligent. But given the history, it is justifiable that you read it differently.

    I certainly apologize for any offence I might have given. You and I would, I am sure, agree on most issues, and disagree on a few. And like you, I allow myself to be viscous with the right. But I don't like to have fallouts with like-minded people.

    As for the original point, I think it still stands. In fact last night Andrew Coyne mentioned the very same issue on The National as evidence that either Wright was lying to Perrin or Harper must have known.

    Take care

    1. hi don't have to apologize, I should apologize for having being so grumpy in my first response. All I can say is that it had been a hard day, a sad day at the place where I work, and I was not my usual self. You may be right about Perrin, he is certainly acting in a suspicious manner having deleted his e-mails after he left the PMO in a hurry. And after a short but decent interval I shall also find a way to forgive the Mound of Sound. For he is a distinguished member of our small Canadian blogosphere, as are you. And if we don't support each other who will? I have been stingy in that regard and will try to do better. Thank you for this comment, and have a great weekend...