OTTAWA — Ontario Court Judge Charles Vaillancourt's 308-page ruling in the Mike Duffy fraud trial offers blistering criticism of the inner workings of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office.
"The political, covert, relentless, unfolding of events is mindboggling and shocking," Vaillancourt said. "The precision and planning of the exercise would make any military commander proud."
Here are five examples, as cited in Vaillancourt's ruling:
1. Chessmaster Nigel Wright
: Former chief of staff Nigel Wright, who made the now infamous $90,000 personal payment to cover Duffy's expenses and ordered senior members of the Senate around like they were "mere pawns on a chessboard." Wright made them "meekly" acquiesce to his orders by "robotically marching forth to recite their scripted lines." Wright enlisted a senator to approach the accounting firm Deloitte, in an "improper secret attempt" to get a sneak peek at their pending report on Duffy's expenses.
2. Maintaining plausible deniability
. Chris Woodcock, the PMO's director of issues management, fulfilled his job to protect the reputation of Harper. Woodcock maintained that he never read the key line in Wright's 2013 email to him that said: "For you only: I am personally covering Duffy's $90K." Of this, the judge said: "This, of course, would serve to protect Mr. Woodcock's deniability (and that of the prime minister, to whom Mr. Woodcock spoke every day about every issue that 'might ruin the prime minister's day'), that he was unaware that it was Mr. Wright's money funding the PMO's Scenario strategy." The judge called it "difficult for a reasonable person to believe Mr. Woodcock's evidence of inexplicably not seeing this line in a short email."
3. Seemed truthful to me.
There were "multiple misrepresentations of PMO-scripted statements for Sen. Duffy asserting that he (Sen. Duffy) had 'repaid' the money," when in fact Wright had. Wright explained this in his testimony saying, "I didn't think it was a bad misrepresentation." Woodcock, who as "PMO wordsmith" drafted statements and media lines, testified that he "didn't view it as a misrepresentation" and "I felt like it was the truth."
4. Senators, call the auditors!
Wright directs "a clearly compliant" Sen. Carolyn Stewart-Olsen to approach the firm Deloitte about its pending audit of Duffy's expenses. "When Sen. Stewart-Olsen advises Nigel Wright that the Deloitte audit of Sen. Duffy's living expense claims 'will not be pulled,' Nigel Wright delivers to Sen. Stewart-Olsen the precise script of the Deloitte report conclusion acceptable to the PMO (to serve its political purposes)." Wright then tells his PMO subordinates, including Woodcock, that he has asked Sen. Irving Gerstein to approach the company "to help get this done."
5. Bring in the consultants.
Wright "conspired" with Goldy Hyder, president of Hill and Knowlton Canada, "to 'manage' Sen. Duffy's alignment with the PMO scenario script." Duffy actually thought Hyder was helping him. "Mr. Hyder reported to Mr. Wright that he has Sen. Duffy 'focused on closing this chapter' (i.e. accept the denial of the opportunity to meet with Deloitte and play out the PMO scenario)." Hyder planned to send Wright the draft of the statement he was preparing for Duffy. "Sen. Duffy had not even seen this draft statement, which Mr. Hyder made plain is 'between us' (himself and Nigel Wright)." Wright told Hyder in emails, "I think it is fine, Goldy" and "this is good." The judge said: "Therefore, Mr. Wright gave his explicit blessing to Mr. Hyder's dishonest draft statement."
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