On the day Stephen Harper returned to Question Period, planning to crow about his new trade deal, Donald Bayne crashed the party. Mike Duffy's lawyer took direct aim at the Prime Minister's Office and at Stephen Harper himself. Andrew Coyne writes:
Donald Bayne may not have succeeded, in the course of Monday’s press conference, in lifting his client clear of the muck. But he has certainly dragged the rest of the Tory hierarchy down into it.
And the muck keeps getting deeper. This story is no longer about Mike Duffy:
Duffy has long since ceased to be the issue. Certainly if the excerpted emails and memos his lawyer read out are indicative, he was indeed counseled on several occasions by senior Tories, including Sen. Marjory LeBreton (the former government leader in the Senate), Sen. David Tkachuk (the former chairman of the Senate internal economy committee) and Nigel Wright (the former chief of staff to the Prime Minister) that he was entitled to his entitlements.
But it’s what they did after that is of more particular interest. Duffy is aggrieved that, having first encouraged him, party grandees then abandoned him, and have now moved to suspend him (along with senators Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau) from the Senate without pay. But the story he has begun to tell — and threatens to tell further — promises to do them far greater harm.
Contrary to the picture the PMO has put about, of a lone Wright, acting on his own and without consultation, suddenly deciding to pay Duffy’s expenses out of his own personal fortune, Duffy offers further evidence that it was part of a sustained exercise in damage control of which a good many top Conservatives either knew or took part, among them — according to Wright’s lawyers — three officials in the PMO, including Benjamin Perrin, then the prime minister’s legal counsel.
The story is now about the prime minister's inner sanctum -- and about the prime minister himself. He and they tried to make unpleasant facts disappear. Mr. Harper is learning -- as his mentor Richard Nixon learned -- that the cover up is what does you in.
And that "the biggest mouth in Ottawa" would not stay shut for long.