Mike Duffy to the PMO: I'm just telling the truth

On CTV’s national newscast on the evening of May 14, the network’s Ottawa bureau chief Bob Fife had some disturbing news for federal Conservatives and gob-smacking news for the rest of us:

Anchor Lisa Laflamme set it up this way: “CTV News has learned that while auditors were going over Conservative Senator Mike Duffy’s living expenses, Harper’s right-hand man, his own chief of staff, was already reaching out with a secret offer, an agreement to help pay off the money Duffy owed taxpayers and make the problem go away.”

In the report that followed, Fife quoted from an e-mail that had been read to him but not given to him in which Duffy was alleged to have said, as Fife quoted,  “I stayed silent on orders of the PMO.

Chris Woodcock, who, as director of issues management inside the PMO, knew immediately he had to start scrambling to find out what Fife knew and where Fife was getting these e-mails. Woodcock’s job is, essentially, to put out fires and here, he had a four-alarm blaze.

Woodcock immediately sent an e-mail to Duffy. If Duffy did, as Fife said he did, send e-mails “all over the city”, then Duffy surely should be able to find the e-mail with this phrase in it.

Duffy and Woodcock began an e-mail exchange with the subject line “Will check that line.”

Yesterday, one of the e-mails in that chain made it into the inboxes of a few reporters on Parliament Hill, including me.  It is not, so far as I know, part of any document put on the record by Duffy, by the Senate or in any court. I promised not to reveal who sent it my way other than to say it came from someone who does not share Duffy’s view of how events unfolded last spring. I have since asked around and spoke to others who know a bit about the sequence of events that night, some of who disagree with Duffy’s view of the world and some who agree with it.

I’m still not sure what to make of this message but here it is (in the JPEG form it arrived in) with my comments below:



First, remember, Woodcock is searching for the source of Fife’s leak. He wonders if, by chance, Duffy had any communications with the Senate Ethics Office about his re-payment of the ineligible expenses. Maybe, Woodcock is thinking, Fife’s source is inside that office.  And,  just before midnight, he checks again with Duffy about finding the e-mail Fife says he has sent all over town “No luck finding it?” Woodcock says hopefully.

Up bright and early the next day, Duffy at 6 a.m. tells Woodcock — who will shortly be on a conference call about this matter — that “No” he  cannot find the e-mail with that phrase in it. Nor would he later.

Duffy then has a rather curious line, telling Woodcock that, if anyone asked, all he’s been doing is telling the truth.

Now, to Duffy’s detractors this is evidence that his public statements that he paid back the $90,000 in ineligible expenses by taking a loan from the RBC was a lie he was perpetuating even in private correspondences with key PMO officials. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has hewed to a version of this saying that he relied on Duffy’s public statements that Duffy used his own assets to obtain a loan from the Royal Bank to pay the money.

But those who believe there’s something to Duffy’s theory that the RBC story was cooked up by the PMO say Duffy is in fact being truthful about how the money got from him to the Senate: via a personal cheque from his RBC account. The money got into Duffy’s bank account via Nigel Wright’s cheque.  And then Duffy, anticipating a line he’d likely get from reporters after the Fife story writes, “Did I get help?” And answers his own question:  “Yes, from the RBC and my wife …” That last bit, if you buy Duffy’s version of events, is Duffy simply repeating back to Woodcock the “script” concocted by the PMO:

In other words: Duffy is simply confirming back to Woodcock the “script” or “line” he was to recite if anyone came calling.

As for the PMO and Duffy, no on-the-record comment has been forthcoming. But read one way, and without having other e-mails in this chain, it is possible this supports the PMO’s version of events and read another way, it supports Duffy’s version of events.

I share what I think is the majority view of most in my newsroom (and likely the majority view of the Parliamentary Press Gallery) that we’d like to see much more of the documentary record made public to help us read this whole affair correctly.

One thought on “Mike Duffy to the PMO: I'm just telling the truth”

  1. My suspicion is that this is Duffy and Woodcock rehearsing the prepared script. After all, if Mike Duffy borrowed the money from the RBC, then why did Nigel Wright resign (or as of yesterday, get dismissed)?

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