Monday, March 16, 2015

Questions And Answers


Stephen Harper doesn't like questions. He doesn't take them. In Question Period, he dodges them. On tough days, he doesn't show up.  When things really get uncomfortable, he prorogues parliament and nobody shows up.

But Mike Duffy's trial starts in three weeks. Harper will not show up to answer questions. But his PMO staff will have to be there to answer questions. Michael Harris writes:

The questioning will be direct and unavoidable — the opposite of Question Period, and those exercises in stand-up comedy that go by the name of “press conference” in the Harper era. For the collection of PMO staffers who offer evidence against Duffy, it will be a new experience to deal with a grand inquisitor like Donald Bayne. Bayne, the accused’s lawyer, is not a member of the press who can be put off with a load of pre-fabricated flapdoodle from the Langevin Block. He is a detail man who is relentless, and who knows the criminal law and how to get answers to his questions.

More importantly, he has a wagonload of emails between his client and the PMO, as well as other evidence, to direct that razor-sharp mind of his. Bayne is someone who demands your “A” game. People like Benjamin Perrin, the PM’s former legal advisor, and Ray Novak, his current chief of staff, had better bring theirs.

Most importantly, Nigel Wright had better bring his:

The most critical witness from the PMO of the day will be Nigel Wright, the PM’s former chief-of-staff. Wright is a titan compared to the many political hacks who will testify against Duffy. He is also a gifted negotiator and a lawyer.

And Wright is something else that Stephen Harper probably doesn’t understand. Though deeply loyal to the Conservative party, he will not lie for the Prime Minister. According to the people who know him best, Wright is a deeply religious man who will answer truthfully any question put to him under oath.

And there are two questions which Wright will have to answer:

What did the “good to go from the PM” email mean? If it means what even recent speakers of the English language would be entitled to conclude, it means that Stephen Harper approved the deal he later pretended to know nothing about. It would be Harper’s Richard Nixon moment: the leader of the country caught out knowingly and deliberately misleading the nation.

But there is at least one other question that could have serious consequences for this Prime Minister. Did Harper or did he not fire Wright, as he claimed on a Halifax radio show weeks after CTV’s Bob Fife broke the story of “Duffygate”?

It will be interesting to hear Wright's answers -- and Harper's responses.


ron wilton said...

I recall reading, many years ago, John Diefenbaker stating that a good courtroom lawyer never asks a question he doesn't already know the answer to.

Most of us by now really do know the answers to most of the questions swirling around 'The Duffy Affair' but I have no doubt the harpercons on the stand, if it gets that far, will provide us with interesting interpretations of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I trust Mr.Duffy's lawyer is 'a good courtroom lawyer'.

Owen Gray said...

I get the impression that he is among the best, Ron. And he won't accept spin for an answer.

Rural said...

I wish I were as confident that the truth will out, Owen. The harpercons are masters of the coverup, payoff and witness corruption, the only question is who and how they are going to pull it off in this case.

Anonymous said...

"flapdoodle" nice word Mr. Harris that about sums up the Harper-cons they are all flap and doodle.

@Ron Wilton that has been an axiom for lawyers for years Dief the Chief did not come up with it he was merely parroting. It is taught in law schools.

I had a friend in New Mexico who changed careers went to law school and became a lawyer. Next thing I knew when I saw him again he was taking acting lessons. I said "What you are changing careers again?" "No" he replied "But I've learned the best actor [lawyer] in the court room always wins!" "Oh" says I "That makes sense." As weird as it might sound but hey he was a very intelligent and kind fellow. He just wanted to have an "edge" over his opposing attorney. Shows you court rooms can be a circus or a theater of the absurd.

Maybe I'll get acting lessons and then become a lawyer so I can play games all day.

Mogs Moglio

Owen Gray said...

To be forewarned is to be forearmed, Rural. I suspect Duffy has warned Bayne about his opponents.

It will be interesting to see how the defence deals with Harper's operatives.

Owen Gray said...

There are lots of theatrics in the courtroom, Mogs. But, even with all that, this trial is going to help determine the prime minister's future employment prospects.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I'm still a skeptic about whether the trial will reveal the truth or not. Is it possible that Harper, who is a central figure in the trial (without having to testify) as PM does not have an idea of how it will unfold? Maybe. The red flag for me was when the RCMP said Harper did not know anything about the 90K cheque to Duffy and when they cleared Nigel Wright.I think Harper and his cons corruption is very far reaching. I guess we'll see in 3 weeks.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Pam, that one of the central questions behind the trial is whether or not the RCMP has been compromised.

The fact that the man who offered the alleged bribe was not charged is deeply disturbing.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Also Owen, I'm curious who the judge will be.Much of the process and outcome will depend on where this judge hails from politically. If he/she is bipartisan than we can say goodbye to a fair trial.If not than Canadians stand a chance of hearing the truth. Also Owen, do you know if there is going to be a jury?

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Also, @ Ron Wilton. I liked your comment about Diefenbaker and just wanted to add that before he went into politics and before he became PM ( of which I did not think him very good) when he was practicing law, he would travel for miles to defend the most poor and vulnerable of society. I don't think alot of Canadians know that he was a great humanitarian and practiced as a lawyer anyway, what he preached.

Owen Gray said...

I don't know if it will be trial by judge or trial by jury, Pam. But, remember, judges are supposed to interpret the law carefully.

Most of the present Supreme Court was appointed by Harper. And, every time he has come up against them, his own appointees have ruled against him.

That says something about their integrity.

Dana said...

Trial by judge. So far unidentified. Google is your friend.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the clarification, Dana. I take it as a good sign.

The Mound of Sound said...

This is obviously a case for trial by judge as most of it will hinge on legal questions of interpretation and findings of credibility.

My friend, who has seen many of the documents, says there are hard times ahead for Benjamin Perrin and Arthur Hamilton that could engage their respective law societies. I'm told Hamilton's involvement was hopelessly amateurish and clumsy.

Marjory LeBreton will be called and I'm told there's a tape recording of a phone call in which she does some interesting pressuring of Duffy to resign his Senate seat.

Then there's Nigel Wright's written statement to the RCMP which, supposedly, implicates SH as being directly involved in the transaction. Remember that Bayne has already said there is a "smoking gun" that connects Harper directly to the alleged bribe.

Bayne's cross-examination of the Crown's witnesses should be highly entertaining. Perrin and Wright are lawyers but they're not trial lawyers.

If there was ever a Canadian trial that should be broadcast, this is it. I wonder if the reporter's transcripts will be available online.

Owen Gray said...

The tape recorded conversation should be very interesting, Mound.

I can't help but think that all the people who did Mr. Harper's bidding are beginning to regret the first time they ever met the man.

ron wilton said...

harper has 'swapped' judges before when things appeared not to be going his preferred way.

Ernst vs Encana in Alberta where the judge favourable to Ms. Ernst was 'promoted' to a higher court in mid trial.

The most egregious one was here in BC during the Basi/Virk BC Rail trial just before a high profile cabinet minister was called as a witness.

That judge was also promoted to a higher court mid trial.

Once a judge is 'seized' by a case they are by law supposed to stay with it, but we all know by now that Canadian law means little or nothing to harper so don't be too shocked or surprised if he goes for a threepeat.

The Mound of Sound said...

What gets me, Owen, is the enormity of the blind eye the RCMP has given the transaction in exonerating Wright et al.

If it was just a matter of Wright coughing up money then maybe but that's not what happened. The cheque was conditional upon Duffy going mute and refusing his obligation to cooperate with the Senate auditors. That was a benefit to the PMO where Duffy was still considered worth his weight in campaign contributions. Then there was the additional promise to see to it that the Senate audit committee "went easy on" Duffy which, as we know, happened when Tkachuk and Stewart-Olsen, after the fact, laundered the original Senate audit report on Duffy. That was the PMO corrupting the Senate in the performance of a quasi-judicial function. And that, IMHO, is what grounds liability on everyone in the PMO who contrived and facilitated this transaction. It snares Wright. It snares Perrin. It snares Tkachuk and Stewart-Olsen, perhaps LeBreton too, and it quite possibly snares Harper.

Scotian said...

I've pointed this out before, shortly after we found out Wright wasn't being charged while Duffy was, but if the RCMP are trying to maintain his credibility as a witness, who is it to testify against? Is it just against Duffy, or is it against an even bigger fish, which is how such things tend to go, in this case Harper himself? Now, while I have at no point let myself believe this is the case, or even the most likely explanation, I have also reminded myself that it is a perfectly plausible answer as much as the idea that the RCMP have been that completely corrupted by the Harper PMO for their actions vis-a-vis Wright. My view on that btw is that if they/Harper could have killed this they would have, so the fact this went forward makes me believe that the RCMP are not that corrupted yet, even if there are some real questions about the very top of the organization these days.

I'm really looking forward to the harsh public light this will cast on the inner workings of the Harper PMO. Even without any Duffy grenades just showing in stark relief how this PMO really works for the average citizen/voter I suspect will not only be revelatory but also profoundly troubling. Even for a corrupt government the way this government and especially this PMO is corrupt is atypical and worse than what Canada and Canadians are used to, and the main key to the great success of Harper has been his ability to keep this awareness from public view and to rewrite things as he chooses.

For those of us who pay close enough attention and have the background, it is fairly obvious what is really going on, but most Canadians do not have the time, resources, and in some aspects skill-sets to do so for themselves. Given how well frozen out the national media has been ever since the rise of Harper to the PMO when he first stopped scrums, made when cabinet meets a secret and something the press had no access to, when he instituted the unprecedented media controls he did, he made it so much harder for the truth about his way of operating and how inherently corrupt it is in our system to be seen by the average citizen. This case though has the very real potential to rip that veil of secrecy right off, and I doubt he would run that risk is he had ANY way of preventing it.

Owen Gray said...

I suspect that Harper underestimated Duffy, Scotian. When Harper threw him under the bus, he expected Duffy to stay there. But Duff wants his revenge.

And he's going to get it.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Mound. There are so many others here who should have been charged but weren't.

The question is why?

Owen Gray said...

It would be sheer stupidity to try something like that in such a high profile case, Ron. But, when it comes to stupidity . . .