7 key quotes in the Mike Duffy-Nigel Wright emails
Crown files one set of emails, defence another: What did we learn?
They hit the trial with a thud: two stacks of emails — one filed by the Crown on Wednesday and another by the defence on Thursday — revealing what key players were writing as Mike Duffy's Senate expense saga unfolded.
Not everything in the stacks was new: some of it repeated messages quoted in RCMP lead investigator Greg Horton's court filings — the Information to Obtain Production Orders — from November 2013. Some of the juicy bits had already been sampled heavily in both the media and question period. (Ex-PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright's "Good to go," anyone?)
- Read the emails filed by defence on Thursday
- Read the emails filed by Crown on Wednesday
- Wright accused of being part of 'deliberately deceptive scenario'
But some were new. And others are worth revisiting with fresh insight as the Duffy trial unfolds.
Here's a look a few quotes from the 2013 emails.
"But let this small group be under no illusion. I think that this is going to end badly."
- Nigel Wright email to four senior PMO staff, Feb. 6, 2013 (Index #0300013 in Crown emails, #21 in defence emails)
The context: Since Dec. 2012, media outlets had been raising questions about Senator Mike Duffy's residency claims: Was he qualified to sit in the Senate representing P.E.I.? Were his expense claims proper, based on where he was actually living? The Prime Minister's Office, of which Nigel Wright was in charge, was asked to vet a written statement Duffy intended to release to the media in response. Wright agreed to Duffy's response, with a warning that now seems ironic given what happened in the weeks that followed.
"I didn't say that, and if you continue to misquote me, then we will be speaking only through lawyers going forward."
- Nigel Wright email to Mike Duffy, Feb. 20, 2013, senior PMO staffer Chris Woodcock also copied (Index #03000090 in Crown emails, #142 in defence emails)
The context: Duffy had just retained the services of lawyer Janice Payne and was asking for information he could forward to her, including what he said was Wright's analysis that he was "in violation of the housing allowance policy." Wright denied having drawn such a conclusion, and it's not the only time misunderstanding or miscommunication complicated negotiations between Duffy and PMO in this saga.
"Had I known we were going down this road I would have shut it down long before this memo... This issue is about $'s, not this."
- Ray Novak, Stephen Harper's then senior aide and now his chief of staff, quoting what the prime minister wrote as instructions on a Feb. 18 memo about the issue of Senate residency, Feb.19, 2013. (Index #127 in defence emails)
The context: Senior staff had presented their plan for dealing with the emerging Senate residency issue. Stephen Harper's memo isn't included in the emails, but the discussion around it suggests Harper had a strong opinion against allowing a Senate committee to explore the issue of who is eligible to sit in the Senate in light of the expenses controversy. Harper wanted the audit to be about expenses rules, not residency requirements, and the staff followed the boss's direction when it drafted its "Scenario for Repayment" (Index# 0300093 in Crown emails, #146 in defence emails).
"I am at wits end with the drama and agendas at play in the chamber of sober second thought."
- Chris Woodcock, writing Nigel Wright and fellow senior staffer Patrick Rogers, Feb.27, 2013 (Index #03000199 in Crown emails)
The context: The Senate subcommittee dealing with the expenses audit had just met, and the Senate's clerk and a staffer were blocking the PMO's desire to issue a report and wrap up the matter quickly. The two administrators were threatening legal action, and Conservative senators felt someone might leak the draft report before it was finalized. From the exchanges, it appears former Harper staffer and Senate committee member Carolyn Stewart Olsen was supposed to be ensuring the committee acted in accordance to the PMO's directives, something described as a "fulfillment of her commitment" to her former PMO colleagues (Index #03000383 in Crown emails).
"I was pretty frank with Mike this morning about attacking the very people who are trying to help him. Unfortunately he and Vern traded expletives shortly thereafter. (Mike was in a state of over waking up to a lawn-sign in Kanata calling on him to resign, and a likely resolution in the P.E.I. [legislature] asking that he be fired)"
- Ray Novak, writing Patrick Rogers, special adviser and counsel Benjamin Perrin, Nigel Wright and Chris Woodcock, March 6, 2013, (Index #318 in defence emails)
The context: Novak appears in several places in the defence emails exchanging more casual notes with or about Duffy. He appears to have an open communications channel with the senator, separate from the others, with Duffy sometimes writing him with frank admissions or pleas (see also defence emails #198 or #230).
- Key Conservative campaign players in the loop on Duffy plan in 2013
- TIMELINE | Mike Duffy and the Senate expenses scandal
"I don't know whether either of you has thoughts, but I think that this is perfectly fine (and I resist making minor suggestions since I would prefer to be able to answer, if necessary, that PMO did not write it)."
- Nigel Wright, email to PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin and Harper aide Ray Novak, March 23, 2013 (Index #03000289 in Crown emails, #404 in defence emails)
The context: The emails immediately before this show Wright making a banking transfer to prepare to pay for Duffy's $90,000 disputed expenses. Novak, now Harper's chief of staff, is a recipient on one (#400) specifically about Wright sending his cheque. Duffy's lawyer, Janice Payne, then sent PMO a draft letter for approval — a letter that would accompany Duffy's repayment to the Senate. She asked Perrin and Wright to comment before Duffy sent it, and this was Wright's reaction.
"Do I need to call Marjory [LeBreton]? They think they are hurting Duffy, but they will end up hurting the prime minister."
- Nigel Wright email to senior staff Patrick Rogers and Chris Woodcock, May 8, 2013 (Index #513 in defence emails)
The context: Emails show growing frustration with the Senate subcommittee's inability to wrap things up quickly as the PMO wanted. Then-Senate leader Marjory LeBreton's office was supposed to be managing it, but a staffer in her office was raising troublesome questions. "This is epic. Montgomery is the problem," Rogers writes of a difficult meeting in LeBreton's office with her assistant Chris Montgomery several emails later in the chain. Woodcock a few minutes later wrote to Wright that "Patrick made it happen," and Wright responded, "Nice work guys. Thank you very much."