OTTAWA — Testimony at the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy has put Stephen Harper’s right-hand man smack in the centre of the scandal, contradicting the Conservative campaign’s assurances.
Ray Novak, Harper’s chief of staff and current campaign director, was in touch right up until the call of the federal election with Nigel Wright — the ex-chief of staff whom Harper has repeatedly held responsible for the scandal.
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And court heard that Novak has been in the loop from the very beginning on the behind-the-scenes machinations that eventually led to Wright’s departure from the Prime Minister’s Office and some of the charges laid against Duffy.
That version of events directly contradicts what the Conservative campaign told reporters late last week; that Novak was not aware.
The information emerged during Duffy’s trial on fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges.
Defence lawyer Donald Bayne read out an interview conducted by the RCMP with former PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin in February 2014.
Perrin told the RCMP investigator that it was “black and white” that Novak was told that former chief of staff Wright would foot the $90,000 bill for Duffy’s contested expenses.
“I believe that Ray Novak was in the room at that time,” Perrin said in a transcript that was read out in court Tuesday by Bayne.
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“…The people who from my own personal knowledge knew about this was obviously, Nigel Wright, Ray Novak, we’ve gone through that, and David van Hemmen, Nigel Wright’s assistant.”
Despite leaving the PMO under a cloud after his $90,000 payment became public, Wright said he is still in contact with Novak.
Under questioning from Duffy’s lawyer, Wright at first said he had last spoken to Novak in May or June, but then said he had exchanged text messages with him “probably about two weeks ago.”
Wright says he does not have a record of the messages.