Monday, November 12, 2007

More observations and questions on the Mulroney/Schreiber affair

A few random observations on the weekend's developments...

1. Dave at Galloping Beaver had a great post on Harper hitching his wagon to Mulroney's star and all the unfortunate current fallout from that strategy. Harper has no one to blame but himself for the risk he took. Norman Spector most helpfully pointed out yesterday that Harper had his eyes wide open on this matter:
In November of 2003, three days after William Kaplan broke the story of Karlheinz Schreiber's cash payments to Brian Mulroney in this newspaper, I happened to meet Stephen Harper in Victoria. The pain and bewilderment on his face when -- before we had even sat down -- he asked what he should say publicly suggests The Globe and Mail had not "buried the lead" -- as some have contended in explaining why the astonishing news quickly fizzled out.

I demurred from offering any advice, of course.
And yet Harper has since unabashedly sidled right up to Mulroney. The Quebec emphasis by the Conservatives and the initiatives there, from blockbuster spending to the "nation" motion, have Mulroney written all over them. The "real" Quebec lieutenant may now be off the team.

2. We also learned this weekend of a March 29, 2007 letter written by Schreiber to Harper detailing the dealings he had with Mulroney. These dealings, by contrast, only became publicly available in Schreiber's recent affidavit filed in court in connection with his suit against Mulroney. Sandra Buckler claims this letter never made its way to Harper but was handled by the PCO. The PCO, in turn, claims that the allegations were made in the context of a lawsuit between two private individuals and did not involve the federal government.

Harper, the smartest guy in the room, had nothing to do with government decision making on how to handle this matter? Kind of hard to believe given what we've seen of Harper and his operation. He has his hand in everything. So what did they do with the letter if Harper had nothing to do with it? We really don't know. File it away? Is that acceptable when such significant allegations are made? Apparently it takes a sworn public statement under oath for these guys to get their act in gear.

I guess Schreiber thought, in sending the letters, that Harper would actually live up to his extensive "accountability" rhetoric expressed during the 2006 federal election and actually do something with the newly acquired information. Silly Schreiber.

3. The opposition should be demanding this week that the briefing referenced in recent reporting that was undertaken by the Justice Department on the matter be produced. Who ordered it, when and why. We know this:
Notes drafted for the Conservatives by bureaucrats point out that briefing material on Airbus and Mulroney was prepared in 2006 and 2007, but that it never made it to the desk of the current or former justice minister.
Explanations please. Who ordered these briefings and why were they withheld from the Minister of Justice?

4. There is a pattern of, well, one might say obstruction making its way into the public on this matter that has nothing to do with Mulroney's problems. The excessive "handling" of mysterious non-briefings and letters from Schreiber are completely of the Harper crew's own doing. And it doesn't look good. Let's hope that whatever the independent review of this matter ends up being, that it will clear up some of these very untidy looking ends.

5. What also may be of note for the upcoming week is this report on the legal wranglings going on with respect to Karlheinz Schreiber's pending extradition to Germany. The Star report from Sunday suggested that Schreiber's lawyers view the current Justice Minister's actions in the matter to be improper. Follow along if you will this extended excerpt as it hints that there are shenanigans going on in the Department of Justice:
On Sept. 20, Schreiber's legal team wrote to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson asking the minister to quash the government's surrender order in light of the new developments between Germany and Switzerland that remove most of the key evidence from the case.

For nearly three weeks, Nicholson did not respond to the letter.

On Oct. 3, Schreiber turned himself in at the Metro West Detention Centre, in keeping with his bail conditions. The next morning, the Supreme Court of Canada was set to rule on his request for a review of one of the justice minister's earlier refusals to stop the extradition.

About 18 minutes before the Supreme Court released its decision, Schreiber's legal team filed an application with the Federal Court of Canada to allow him to remain in Canada until Nicholson ruled on their Sept. 20 request to reconsider the extradition.

The RCMP, however, had apparently not been told about the latest legal manoeuvre.

About an hour before the Supreme Court was scheduled to deliver its judgment Oct. 4, Schreiber was approached in his jail cell by two guards, who told him to get dressed for court.

Puzzled, Schreiber explained to them that he had no court appearances scheduled for that day.

After nearly three hours, a guard came and told Schreiber to change back into his jail clothing because the Mounties weren't coming to take him away after all.

At about 2.50 p.m. next day, federal justice department lawyers notified Schreiber's lawyers that the government would ask a court to quash his injunction application, which could pave the way for his immediate extradition.

The hearing was to take place 12 minutes later, before a Federal Court judge.

Greenspan's office was quickly on the phone with two federal justice department lawyers and Federal Court judge Johanne Gauthier.

Gauthier adjourned the hearing until the next Tuesday.
But it didn't go ahead as scheduled. Instead, Schreiber's lawyers abandoned their Federal Court application and shifted the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which had the effect of buying Schreiber more time.

The government's "ruthless" efforts to extradite him – combined with Nicholson's refusal to reconsider the extradition in light of new developments affecting the evidence – violates principles of fundamental justice under the Charter, the Greenspans told the appeal court in written submissions.

"The minister's conduct in the circumstances is cavalier, egregious and an abuse of process and warrants condemnation by this court" their brief says.

On Oct. 11, Nicholson announced he was refusing to accept Schreiber's Sept. 20 submissions, saying they added nothing new to the case. Schreiber's lawyers say he has a duty to consider them and provide written reasons for his decision.

In their written submissions to the court, federal lawyers Nancy Dennison and Richard Kramer say the minister has already reconsidered Schreiber's extradition six times and the latest request amounts to an abuse of process. (emphasis added)
Isn't that strange behaviour on the part of the RCMP? And what's with giving 12 minutes notice that a hearing is to take place? What country are we in, anyway?

And that language used by the Greenspans in their submission is notable. It's not every day you see such strong condemnation of a federal Justice Minister like that. It's quite remarkable for a lawyer to go that far. That's not just forceful advocacy. They clearly believe the actions of the Minister are off.

So many unanswered questions. And there are bound to be so many more.