Trudeau Liberals Face Major Questions Over Norman Trial

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jerrym
Trudeau Liberals Face Major Questions Over Norman Trial

The Trudeau Liberal's handling of the two year lead-up to what was to be the Vice Admiral Mark Norman trial for leaking cabinet secrets and the sudden dropping of charges shortly after the defence obtained long-delayed Trudeau government documents raises another legal issue that could haunt them into the election campaign. Furthermore, Norman is promising to reveal more about what happened, which means it will continue to be in the news. 

Admiral Norman was the former head of the Royal Canadian Navy and serving second-highest officer in the Canadian Armed Forces when he was relieved of duty in 2017. The RCMP was called in by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to investigate the alleged leaking of cabinet secrets to Chantier Davie Canada Inc. (Davie), a Quebec-based ship building firm. In 2015, the firm had been contracted to urgently convert a civilian vessel into a naval supply ship after Canada’s two elderly supply vessels were retired without replacements ... The Harper Tories gave Davie a sole-sourced contract to do the conversion work, but when the Liberals won the election later that year, they seemed less enthused about the plan.

There’s no firm explanation as to why. It’s been theorized that former Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison was advocating for a shipbuilder in Atlantic Canada, owned by New Brunswick’s Irving family, with whom he is personally friendly, to get the work and that the prospect of the upcoming Norman trial influenced his recent decision to quit politics. Brison, for his part, denies this. But in any case, Davie began to intensively lobby the government to proceed with the project and when the public learned through leaks to the media that Trudeau might pull the contract from Davie, the government was embarrassed into proceeding with the original plan. But the PMO, no doubt unhappy with being undermined, also began aggressively investigating leaks of cabinet confidences to Davie, and eventually settled on Norman as the suspect. He was charged with breach of trust in 2018, a year after being relieved of duty (but not, critically, discharged from the Navy).

That was then. On Wednesday, the Crown stayed the single charge Norman faced, announcing that it had received new evidence that cleared the admiral of suspicion of criminal acts. ... 

What was the purpose of all of this? The Liberals, from the prime minister on down, can’t answer that, but they’re certainly happy to tell you what didn’t happen. The prime minister led the messaging this week, telling reporters just minutes after Norman left the courthouse that there had been no interference from his office. ... Norman’s lawyer, Marie Henein, agreed that the prosecutor had independently chosen to drop the case, and for the right reasons, but also accused the PMO and the Privy Council Office (PCO) ... of trying to sabotage Norman’s defence by withholding access to critical documents. “You should be very concerned when anyone tries to erode the resilience of the justice system or demonstrates a failure to understand why it is so fundamental to the democratic values we hold so dear,” Henein said. “… You don’t put your finger and try to weigh in on the scales of justice. That is not what should be happening.” ...

Henein’s accusation of improper conduct by the PMO and PCO would have been extraordinary a year ago. Today, after compelling evidence that those offices were motivated by politics to repeatedly try interfering in the Crown’s pursuit of bribery charges against SNC-Lavalin, it’s simply more of the same. It’s yet another suggestion that the Trudeau Liberals are entirely willing to subvert the administration of justice in this country when it suits them. When a friend such as SNC-Lavalin, or perhaps the Irving family operation needs help, the Trudeau Liberals will go the extra mile, it seems, even if their own attorney general urges them to stop (as Jody Wilson-Raybould did with SNC, before being fired over it). ...

Norman was denied access to funds that are routinely made available to members of the Armed Forces or the public service who are incurring legal bills for matters related to their service (the government announced this week that it would now cover Norman’s considerable costs). The Post had previously reported that the government was dragging its feet, even in the face of court orders, to make documents available to Norman’s defence team; some of the documents, when surrendered, were entirely redacted. Military officials used codewords when discussing the case on email, just so they would not be found in searches for documentation bearing Norman’s name, thus compelling further disclosure. Senior military officers claim to have taken no notes during meetings with the prime minister to discuss the matter. The government’s behaviour in this case clearly emits a disgraceful odour.

There’s still much we don’t know. Norman has said further revelations are pending; that there are things he has to say that Canadians need to hear.

https://nationalpost.com/opinion/np-view-with-mark-norman-the-liberals-a...

jerrym

During Question Period, as shown in the video below, on Wednesday NDP MP Charlie Angus challenges Trudeau to apologize to Norman for the lengths he went to in order to destroy his career. It's starting to look like another case of abuse of the legal system, similar to SNC Lavalin, in support of Liberal cronies.

https://globalnews.ca/video/5255226/ndp-says-mark-norman-case-has-expose...

jerrym

There are already political reverberations of the trial occurring in Canada. There were six separate cases of leaking essentially the same information, but only Norman was charged. It sure sounds like scapegoating and revenge rather than justice.

Former President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison, who tried to get the contract shifted to the Irving family from the Davie Shipyard, was also involved in leaking to friends about upcoming changes in tax policy that would be beneficial for them to know in advance during his time in the Liberal Martin government. Some journalists have been questioning how convenient for Brison to resign from the Liberal government in January before the trial came up and revelations about his involvement occurred at trial. However, no charges were ever laid against Brison for his 2006, raising the question of a double standard. 

Meanwhile Norman has been left with his a career, in which he had been expected to become the top military commander before the charges, now in limbo. He also faces an enormous legal bill from his preparation for the trial. Normally, when one is charged with activity related to one's job one is entitled to having the legal expenses covered, at a minimum until the trial is over.  

It is also interesting to note that Liberal MP and former lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie has announced he will not run in the upcoming election and was going to testify instead in Norman's defence at the trial when the charges were dropped.  

Vice Admiral Mark Norman’s criminal trial for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets about a delayed navy ship contract is over, but the Navy commander has still not returned to active duty, and the political, legal and operational implications of the ill-fated case are reverberating across official Ottawa. ...

Politically, the Liberals dodged the prospect of a potentially embarrassing trial playing out ahead of next fall’s election. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could still pay a price if Opposition accusations of political interference in the case, which dominated question period Thursday, stick, adding fuel to the SNC-Lavalin fire, in which similar allegations of political meddling plunged Trudeau’s government in the polls. ...

In the wake of the collapse of the Norman trial, a senior official said there are questions on the mind of top officials in the prime minister’s office about whether there are any enforceable standards to stop unauthorized disclosures, or leaks, of cabinet secrets. 

Norman’s defence lawyer Marie Henein punched a giant hole in the notion that there are any clear rules or standards. In a scathing written brief to a judge seeking documents in Norman’s case to prove that, she wrote: “Cabinet confidences appear to be currency in Ottawa.”

She painted a clear portrait of just how leaky government is, and the double standards applied to different leakers, and produced “new” information to the federal public prosecutions service, which led director Kathleen Roussel to abandon the criminal charge against Norman. ...

Conservative defence minister Jason Kenney, the current premier of Alberta, said when it comes to the department of national defence headquarters, there are no standards. If anything, leaking is the norm. ... “It’s an open secret in Ottawa that DND HQ leaks like a sieve, not to say that it’s right, but the notion that Admiral Norman may have shared some information with media, frankly that happens every single day at the department of national defence. The notion that that should elicit criminal charges, to me, has been incomprehensible.” ...

In reality, PCO found there were six separate leaks of the same information Norman was said to have shared with Quebec’s Davie shipyard and a CBC reporter: that former Treasury Board President Scott Brison had raised in cabinet a request from the Irving shipyard company to the newly elected Liberal government to delay a decision in order to re-consider Irving’s bid to be the contractor. Ultimately, 73 people were identified by PCO as having been at least partly aware of the discussion in cabinet.

Henein scoffed at Brison’s claim it was the worst leak in his 20 years in Parliament, and, in her brief, promised to challenge Brison’s credibility at trial, flagging that Brison, himself, was once accused of leaking. ...

Brison admitted in 2006 he regretted sending an email to an acquaintance at the CIBC the day before a crucial Nov. 23 tax policy announcement by the then-Paul Martin government. Brison said he wrote, “I think you will be happier very soon … this week probably.” He justified his action as merely repeating what everyone was already speculating about.

“Despite Minister Brison’s confession,” wrote Henein, “the RCMP did not lay any charges against him, following its 2006 investigation into his leak, in spite of the striking similarity between the Minister’s explanation and (Norman’s) circumstances.” ...

As for Norman, there’s no decision yet about whether he will be reinstated as Vance’s vice-chief of defence staff, the number two in charge of Canada’s armed forces, as he wishes.

https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2019/05/09/collapse-of-trial-of...

 

Martin N.

It is quite simple. Vice Admiral Norman was doing his job and advertently stepped in the way of Librano money laundering to the Irvings via Defense procurement scams.

In the latest incident, Irving shipbuilding is constructing the Arctic Patrol vessels for $400 million each and want one more to tide them over until the Global Combat Ship program kicks off. The price tag for this extra ship is $800 million.

The Danes, I believe, are building the same vessels for $75 million each. Canadian Defense procurement is rife with wealth transfers from the taxpayer to well-connected Libranos.

This obscene vendetta has nothing to do with justice, the law or cabinet leaks and everything to do with sending a message to any minion disposed to interfere with the money laundering.

Mr. Dressup, bought and paid for.

ETA: The Libranos are eager to shovel  a 100% inflated $800 million to Irving for an extra AOP the Navy does not need but refuse to consider an on-time, on-budget Supply vessel from Quebec's Davie Shipyard that the Navy desperately needs.

NDPP

In an Inspired Performance, Norman Lawyer Did Incalculable Damage To the Trudeau Brand

https://vancouversun.com/news/canada/in-an-inspired-performance-henein-d...

"Henein took pains to praise the prosecutors in the Norman case for their integrity and professionalism. She was not as kind about the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office, which she blamed collectively for witholding a host of documents, over months and even years, that she felt were crucial to her client's defence.

'You should be very concerned when anyone tries to erode the resilience of the justice system or demonstrates a failure to understand why it is so fundamental to the democratic values we hold so dear,' she said. 'There are times you agree with what happens in a courtroom there are times you don't. And that's fine. But what you don't do is you don't put your finger and try to weigh in on the scales of justice. That is not what should be happening."

 

Mark Norman and Marie Henein, Full Press Conference

https://youtu.be/FJ6Q337NUWg

 

An alarming and demonstrated tendency to try to 'fix the game.'

jerrym

The NDP has sent a letter requesting an independent prosecutor investigate of the Liberal government's handling of the Admiral Norman charges.

“From the beginning, this prosecution has been a three-ring circus. Canadians deserve the truth on the allegations that the Prime Minister's Office interfered yet again with a judicial process and that former Minister Brison favoured one company over another for political gain.” said Jagmeet Singh. ...

“The Director of the Public Prosecution should appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate and determine that the proceedings against the Vice-Admiral were completely free of political pressure,” said NDP Justice Critic Tracey Ramsey (Essex).

https://www.ndp.ca/news/ndp-call-investigation-norman-debacle

Pondering

I haven't been watching this case closely but I am puzzled why it reflects on the Liberals rather than the Conservatives.  The documents show that Conservatives ordered Norman to do whatever he did, so why didn't they just say so from the beginning. Why didn't Norman simply say he was told to do what he did?  

Does this not also show the Conservatives and Liberals hand in hand when it comes to concealing information?

Debater

New piece today from John Ibbitson (and he's a conservative):

There's no evidence Liberals interfered in Mark Norman prosecution

jerrym

Even one of Trudeau's own cabinet ministers, Carla Qualtrough, says it was not wise to comment on the Mark Norman situation before charges were laid, thereby raising questions about Norman. 

Maybe it wasn’t the best call for the prime minister to speculate on Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s case before he was charged, says one of his cabinet ministers.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough was asked about the decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to weigh in not once but twice on the future of the criminal breach of trust case, which was stayed last week after the Crown admitted it could not prove its case against the former second-in-command of the Canadian Forces.

Those comments have led to accusations of political interference from the opposition parties, something Qualtrough said she recognizes has some concerned.

“I know. I know that’s how it was perceived and I think, in hindsight, not the best framing of words, I can assure you,” she said.

https://globalnews.ca/news/5263686/mark-norman-charges-stayed-justin-tru...

 

jerrym

In the article below Vice Admiral Mark Norman describes what happened to him, Trudeau's involvement, the slow-walking of the prosecution in providing evidence to the defence as required the effects of the refusal of the government to pay for his defence, the dismissal of charges, the involvement of former Cabinet Minister Scott Brison and the Irving family in what happened, the revelation that instructions were given to never include Norman's name in any military documents so that they could not be found in any defence search, and the charging of someone else only after evidence that the prosecutor was forced to released pointed to someone else. However, Norman is restricted in what he can say at this time because he is still a member of the military. The fact that an August trial date would lead to information coming out during the election campaign about how Norman was treated became increasingly extremely awkward for the Trudeau Liberal government.  While he would not discuss whether he plans to sue the government over his treatment in this situation, other sources have confirmed this. 

The allegations were a working RCMP theory — the raid was part of their ongoing investigation — but when the police briefed Canada’s top soldier, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, he had quickly responded by suspending Norman from his military duties. It would later emerge that Vance had discussed the matter with Trudeau and top advisors in the Prime Minister’s Office including then-principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford.

Mark came into the living room and the couple fumbled with their PVR to retrieve the news clip of Trudeau. “This is an important matter that is obviously under investigation, and will likely end up before the courts, so I won’t make any further comments at this time,” the prime minister said. ...

Later that evening Henein issued a statement to journalists. Politicians should not be commenting about whether a case would be going to trial, she noted. “I expect what the prime minister meant to say is that he declined to comment further given that the matter is under investigation,” she said. It was Henein, perhaps the highest-profile lawyer in the country, providing Trudeau with a way out if he wanted to take it.

But almost a year later Trudeau was back at it, again predicting at a televised town hall in February 2018 that Norman was headed to trial, though he had still not been charged. ...

A little more than a month after Trudeau’s second prediction, and over two years after the start of their investigation, the RCMP charged Norman with one count of breach of trust. On May 8, prosecutors stayed that charge, ending a two-and-a-half-year-long ordeal for Norman and his family. ...

Under military regulations, however, Norman is restrained in what he can say in public. He could face a new charge under the Canadian Forces legal system if anything he says is seen to be critical of the senior military leadership or government. ...

Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison had told police that the leak had caused significant damage. It had limited the ability of the Liberals “to really do what we’d intended to do, and that is more due diligence on this,” he said. Environment minister Catherine McKenna, chair of the cabinet committee, told the Mounties she believed that as a result of the leak “trust and confidence in officials was clearly put into disrepute.” ...

Shortly after 6:30 p.m. Norman was ushered into Vance’s office. With Vance was John Forster, deputy minister of the Department of National Defence. The RCMP had already briefed the two men on their allegations against Norman and informed them of the raid. After hearing from the RCMP earlier that day, Vance held separate meetings to brief political officials, including one with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and one with Prime Minister’s Office staff including Telford and Butts. Vance also had a brief phone call with Trudeau to confirm that the prime minister was aware of the situation. However, Vance told Norman he couldn’t discuss the details of what the RCMP had revealed to him, other than that the information was “compelling, sobering and frightening.” .. . Vance handed Norman a brown envelope containing a document outlining the general’s intention to relieve his second-in-command from his military duties. ... On the morning of Monday, Jan. 16, Vance distributed a letter outlining the situation to senior military officers at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. It took only 20 minutes to be leaked to the media. ...

The total lack of information fuelled gossipy theories in political, defence and media circles. Some military personnel wondered whether Norman’s suspension was related to sexual misconduct. Perhaps he was a Russian spy, others mused. The news got international attention. “It was playing on CNN, on BBC, it was all over the world,” said Norman.

After 10 days of allowing speculation to percolate about the reasons for Norman’s suspension, Sajjan announced publicly what the government had known all along. “This is not an issue of national security,” the minister told journalists. However, he provided no further explanation.

Sajjan has declined to answer why he waited so long to make clear that the investigation wasn’t a matter of national security. But defence sources confirm that the minister’s response wasn’t intended to provide any relief for Norman. Sajjan was sending a message to the U.S. and other Canadian allies who were starting to ask questions about whether Norman’s removal was the result of a significant security breach. Norman said the government and military silence significantly damaged his reputation. “I don’t know what the hell they were thinking or what they hoped to achieve,” he said. ...

The other stress Norman faced was the growing financial burden for his legal defence. He and his family lived a comfortable life and his $265,000 salary from the Canadian Forces was significant. But taking on the unlimited public-funded resources of government prosecutors requires money, and lots of it. Potential witnesses had to be found and interviewed. Access to Information requests had to be filed to try to obtain documents. Even getting basic documents from the government would turn into an ordeal that only served to create more work and drive up costs. Norman applied to have his legal bills covered through a fund designed to pay lawyer’s fees for federal public servants who, as a result of their job, found themselves in court. He was shocked by the response he received. Not only was he rejected for such funding, but DND had already determined he was guilty. ...

To deal with his legal fees Norman took out a large line of credit with his $600,000 house as collateral. He borrowed money from friends and supporters.

Unbeknownst to him, a retired army colonel in Vancouver had read Postmedia’s report about the government rejecting his request for assistance with his fees and decided to set up a GoFundMe page to help the naval officer. Lee Hammond didn’t know Norman well, but had met him while working at DND headquarters in Ottawa. The former army officer was struck with the inequality of an individual facing off against the full force of government. Hammond set up the GoFundMe with an initial goal of $50,000. ... As the legal battle dragged on, Hammond would raise the fundraising goal, eventually bringing in more than $430,000 from more than 3,500 individuals, every penny critical to fund the vice-admiral’s ongoing legal defence. ...

Norman has declined to discuss the final tally of his legal fees. Public reports have put that cost at $500,000. Norman, however, said that figure is not accurate. “The full cost of this is well beyond what has previously been reported,” he said. “We’re talking multiples of that number.” Legal specialists consulted by Postmedia estimate the cost to Norman for his legal bills since 2017 is well over $1 million. ...

But the RCMP’s case was already being questioned in the courts. In an April 21, 2017 ruling on an application a group of news organizations including Postmedia made to make public the details of the search warrant executed on Norman’s home, Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips pointed out some problems with the police case: the fact Norman was communicating with Davie officials, Phillips said, didn’t mean he was guilty of anything. “The emails in question are by no means smoking guns,” Phillips wrote in a ruling that unsealed the information. Phillips also pointed out another possible explanation for Norman’s emails: for decades, Canadian military procurement has been a mess. Norman found himself in the middle of a situation where the acquisition of a supply ship the navy badly needed appeared to be headed off the rails due solely to political considerations. The judge specifically noted that none of what Norman did was for financial gain, but was instead to ensure the well-being of the navy and his sailors. ...

More importantly, Phillips pointed out, to make a case against Norman the RCMP would need to prove that the naval officer was the first to leak confidential information in the supply ship case. That could be difficult. The Privy Council Office, the organization that supports the prime minister and cabinet, had already conducted its own investigation of the November 2015 leak and found that at least 42 people knew about the planned cabinet committee discussion about the Asterix contract beforehand, and at least 73 people knew the result afterward. The PCO investigation determined there were six separate leaks to various lobbying firms and journalists.

In fact, the RCMP had information implicating an alleged second suspect in the leak. The police force had seized a Memorandum to Cabinet — a document marked ‘secret’ — and a slide deck related to the Liberal’s cabinet committee meeting on the Asterix deal from the office of Brian Mersereau, a top official with the public relations and lobbying firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies. The company had Davie Shipbuilding as one of its major clients. The police also seized an email to Mersereau from Matthew Matchett, a senior official with Public Services and Procurement Canada. In the email Matchett told Mersereau he was going to drop off some material at the Hill and Knowlton offices. “I got everything — the motherload (sic),” Matchett wrote in his email.

Strangely, the RCMP hadn’t charged Matchett and the government had continued to allow him to work as a senior official at Procurement Canada. (The government only suspended Matchett after Norman’s defence team publicly disclosed his name and alleged role in court documents. He would be charged with one count of breach of trust in February 2019. Matchett has pleaded not guilty, and has not responded to Postmedia’s numerous attempts to contact him.)

Despite the flaws in the case against Norman, the Public Prosecution Service proceeded with the criminal charge against the naval officer. Federal Crown prosecutor Barbara Mercier would later state the prosecution service “did a thorough analysis of the evidence and the law” before deciding to charge Norman. ...

A trial date would be set for August 2019, placing it squarely in the run-up to a federal election expected that fall. ...

During the pre-trial hearings Henein’s strategy became clear. Right from the beginning, Norman’s lawyers put front and centre their intention to take aim at key Liberal government officials, in particular then-Treasury Board President Scott Brison. Central to Henein’s allegations was the claim that Brison, a Nova Scotia MP, was close to Atlantic Canada’s powerful Irving family, whose shipbuilding firm had submitted its own proposal to provide a supply ship. Norman’s lawyers alleged that Brison intervened to scuttle the Asterix project on the Irving’s behalf.

The Irvings have consistently denied any attempt to undercut a rival shipbuilder by political interference, and Brison has also denied any wrongdoing, saying his only interest was to look out for taxpayers. But Henein’s allegations, made in various legal documents, got Brison’s name into the headlines and increased the political heat on the Liberals over the Norman affair.

Norman’s legal team also hammered away in declaring the case had been politicized, pointing out the failure of the RCMP to interview any witnesses from the Harper government. The RCMP, warned Norman’s lawyers, had adopted the “political narrative advanced by the Trudeau government.” ...

On Dec. 18, 2018 the officer, whose name is protected by a publication ban because of fears of professional reprisal, testified that his superior told him Norman’s name was deliberately not used in internal files — meaning any search for records about Norman would come up empty.

The witness said he was processing an access-to-information request about Norman in 2017 that returned no results. When he sought clarification, the officer testified, his supervisor — a brigadier general — smiled and told him: “Don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo. We made sure we never used his name. Send back the nil return.” ...

Throughout the winter and spring, Norman’s defence launched new allegation after new allegation against the prosecution and further highlighted delays in getting documents. Records from Trudeau, Butts, Telford and Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council, that discussed the Norman case were among the top documents being sought. ...

In February 2019, Norman’s defence team alleged Privy Council lawyers were discussing trial strategy with federal prosecutors in a manner that showed worse political interference than the SNC-Lavalin affair. ...

In late March there was a shift in the Crown’s dogged position. Prosecutors examined new evidence gathered by Norman’s legal team, as well as documents federal officials had finally turned over. Norman, Henein and the prosecutors have all declined to discuss the nature of that new evidence. But the information was enough to put an end to the prosecution case.

https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/the-fight-of-your-life-in-a-postm...