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PMO staffer causes more trouble for Harper Spotted talking to witness at Duffy trial

Posted in Talking Politics

Published on August 28, 2015 with No Comments

Prime Minister Stephen Harper faced more questions on whether his office interfered in court proceedings after a senior staffer in charge of damage control was spotted speaking to a witness at Sen. Mike Duffy’s trial, reported a leading TV channel.

Nick Koolsbergen, Harper’s director of issues management, was seen in the hallways of the Ottawa courthouse dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and conversing with the PMO’s former director of issues management Chris Woodcock during breaks in Woodcock’s testimony.

It is not known what Koolsbergen and Woodcock said to each other, reported the channel. Woodcock was the last witness to testify before Duffy’s trial adjourned until Nov. 18.

Harper was asked at a campaign stop Wednesday whether Koolsbergen was told to “instruct” Woodcock.

“Look, these are matters before the court and we don’t interfere in them,” Harper said.

Harper’s spokesperson, Kory Teneycke, insisted that Koolsbergen was at the trial to take notes and inform Harper about what was happening in court.

Teneycke said Koolsbergen and Woodcock made “small talk” but did not discuss the case.

“I guess the appearance of that is not great,” Teneycke added. “But you’re trying to make something that was like an innocent ‘hi how are you?’ into something that it isn’t.”

Criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt said it is fine for a witness to speak with other people while under cross-examination, but “any discussion about the evidence or the testimony (is) not only problematic, it could be an offence.”

Koolsbergen’s appearance in court is not the first time top Harper aides have spoken with key witnesses during the Duffy trial. Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, admitted on the stand that he’d exchanged BlackBerry messages with his successor Ray Novak two weeks before he testified.


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