My latest: prosecution, forgone conclusion

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best.

“When you strike at a King, you must kill him.”

The parentage of the American essayist’s words have been claimed by many, but one thing can’t be denied: if you indict a former president of the United States, you’d better not lose.

And this writer – who worked, full disclosure, for Hillary Clinton in three states in 2016, including at her Brooklyn headquarters – thinks Manhattan’s District Attorney is going to lose. Badly.

As everyone is noting, this has never happened before: a president – or a former president – being indicted for a crime. In the 247 years that the American republic has existed, no president had ever been charged with a crime. Ever.

Impeached, yes – Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton, once, and the aforementioned Donald J. Trump, twice. But arraigned, fingerprinted and photographed like a common criminal? That’s a first.

It also won’t succeed. As much as this writer detests Trump, the fact remains: successfully prosecuting a president – any president – is doomed to failure.

Forget about the “no one is above the law” piffle. If O. J. Simpson showed us anything, it’s that celebrities in the United States are judged by a different standard. And Donald Trump isn’t just a celebrity – he’s arguably the biggest celebrity of this era.

I also think he’ll walk. Five reasons.

One, if you read any of the news stories about Trump’s indictment, you will repeatedly see two words:  “legal theory.” The “legal theory” relates to whether it was inappropriate to mix Trump Organization funds – and presidential campaign funds – in some Byzantine way to pay off a porn star.

If you are ever going to try out a “legal theory,” best not do it with a former president in front of an international audience. Experiment at home first, sure. Not on the front pages of the world’s newspapers.

Two, the principal source of the allegations against Trump come from one man: his former lawyer, a convicted criminal. Michael D. Cohen was the one who allegedly arranged for the hush money to be paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. Problem: Cohen is a crook, a convicted fraudster and perjurer. He’s been jailed for those crimes. Why would he be believed now? For the prosecution, it’ll be a big hill to climb.

Three: the other star witness is one Stormy Daniels, a porn star. The pneumatic Daniels is no dummy – she showed a rapier wit on social media – but she is also a bit of a loon. Among other things, Daniels bills herself as a “paranormal investigator” – and stars in the “Spooky Babes Show.” She has testified previously that her house is haunted by “a non-human thing with tentacles.”

While those of us who have gone through divorce can empathize with that description, it isn’t going to do much for Stormy’s credibility on the stand. Spooky, indeed.

Four: the Manhattan prosecutor in the case, Alvin J. Bragg, is a registered Democrat. He went to  Harvard, he’s a good Dad, he taught Sunday school. No matter. The Right Wing Death Machine is about to pluck Bragg from obscurity, and pop him into a political Cuisinart. Every mistake, every misstep that he has made in his 49 years is about to get the proctologist’s treatment. He is going to become a human piñata, and fodder for every Republican presidential candidate.

Five: and that is the biggest reason why indicting Donald J Trump is a mistake. It will unite all of the GOP presidential aspirants like nothing else. A black, Harvard-educated Democrat prosecuting a Republican former President who still tops most polls?

That’s not all. A line has been crossed on Thursday in Manhattan.  When the GOP retake the White House – and they will – they will return the favor, with extreme prejudice. They will indict Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton – and the Kennedy brothers, if they can.

The criminal prosecution of Donald Trump will unleash a Civil War in American politics like has never been seen before. It’ll be ugly.

Trump is a crook. Everyone knows that.

We didn’t need a doomed-to-failure prosecution to remind us.


My latest: what if they gave a budget, and no one cared?

Budgets? Who cares.

These days, voters mostly don’t. 

Polls consistently show distrust about everything government does and says – including budgets like the one released by the Trudeau government earlier this week. It’s the boy-cries-wolf effect on a grand, fiscal scale: citizens have been lied to so many times, they increasingly tune budgets out.

It’ll be noteworthy, in fact, if details about Chrystia Freeland’s 2023 budget are remembered by most folks by this time next week. If a majority of voters can recall a single salient factoid about this week’s federal budget – Freeland making some cuts, Freeland raising taxes (she actually did both) – it’ll be a political miracle.

Why? Because citizens simply don’t believe budgetary statements anymore. And not just in Canada. In Western democracies, everywhere, budgets are falling victims to what experts call the “fiscal illusion.” 

Keynesian types say “fiscal illusion” is created by some governments, and how they deal with ballooning debt. The creation of too much debt – and the Trudeau regime are recognized experts at that – can, sometimes, stimulate the economy. Yes. But that’s all short-term.  

The Trudeau approach creates a momentary illusion of prosperity, and thereby boosts consumer spending. But, sooner or later, the debt has to be paid – and that’s why Trudeau-style budgets are a fiscal illusion.

There are other reasons why Freeland’s budget won’t instill confidence. Here’s five.

  1. What’s in a billion? A pollster once told this writer 40 per cent of Canadians don’t know how many million are in a billion. Even if that’s an exaggeration – and it may not be, by much – one thing is true: most of us have never held a billion of anything. Which tells you that governments (and corporations) are literally expressing debts, deficits and dollars in a way that most folks don’t comprehend. So they tune it out.
  2. It’s never right. Going back to the Jean Chrétien/Paul Martin era – which was the last time, notably, that Ottawa actually made the cuts that needed to be made – the numbers that seep out of the Department of Finance, pre-budget, are often wrong. Martin turned this strategy into an art form – ensuring his budget day numbers would look better than the pre-budget leaks. After a few years of this sleight-of-hand, however, media and citizens tended not to believe any of the figures coming out of Finance.
  3. Too much, too often. For years, federal budgets have tried to reach too many different audiences too often. And when you have 1,000 different messages, you don’t have any messages at all. It’s simply too much for the average voter to comprehend. So, voters regard all of it as data smog and carry on with their day.  Simplicity, repetition and volume work (ask Donald Trump). But too many federal budgets are too complex and convoluted.
  4. Consensus is gone.  During the pandemic, many bad things happened.One of them was the collapse of consensus about certain basic truths – ie., public health is good, vaccines work, etc. The same phenomenon is at work with budgets: there too many opinions being offered, too often, by too many “experts” that are completely contradictory. Post-budget media coverage accordingly becomes a communications traffic jam. So, citizens choose not to believe any of it.  
  5. It’s all B.S. As noted above – that Trudeaupian economics is based on a fiscal illusion – the one unassailable truth about budgets is this: there is no truth in budgets. Voters have been spun, or flat-out lied to, so many times that the budgetary credibility gap is bigger than Canada’s debt – by the time you read this, about $1,215,000,000,000 according to the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation. It doesn’t matter which party is in power anymore: an estimated 75 per cent of Canadian voters say they don’t believe in what governments say or do.

And that is the biggest problem of all: truth. For most of us, we don’t think budgets contain much. Debt and deficits, yes. Truth? Not so much.

Sorry, Chrystia Freeland. But it’s the truth.

Kinsella was Special Assistant to Jean Chretien


Toronto politics invades County politics

Here’s a letter I wrote to the local paper.  Remember, politicos: everyone has a past.

As a resident of Hillier, I was frankly astounded by the Times’ willingness to publish the letter from Chris Bolton about Councillor Chris Braney’s effort to review the structure of Council, and how it governs itself.

Braney – who I know, and who I voted for – is simply fulfilling a promise he made: to see if having a smaller Council is worthwhile.  That’s all.When that has happened in other jurisdictions, like Toronto, it has worked.

In his letter, Bolton refers repeatedly to Braney’s time on Council: “only effectively two months,” others have “much more experience,” other councillors are “veterans,” and so on.  His comments were condescending and unfair.  Braney was elected in a virtual landslide precisely because he was a new voice – and not a “veteran” politician.

Bolton’s references to “experience” was revealing, however, although perhaps not in the way he intended.  Bolton’s own “experience” includes his resignation as chair of Toronto’s public school board in 2014.

At the time, the Toronto Star stated that there had been “a never-ending stream of scandals” under his watch.  They stated, as fact, that “the timing of his resignation is questionable given recent controversies concerning a charity he and his partner are involved with.”

Wrote the Star: “Bolton has been chair as controversies have rocked trustees, including audits criticizing spending and processes and helping staff who accused other trustees of bullying and bad behaviour… questions have also been raised about him and his role with Friends of Community Schools — a charity both Bolton and his partner have been heavily involved with.”

If that is the sort of “experience” that Bolton is referring to, I’d hazard a guess that most County residents don’t want or need it.

 Warren Kinsella, J.D.





My latest: treason?

Can he be charged with treason?

It’s a question many are asking. It’s a fair question.

Since Wednesday night, when Global News dropped a bomb on Canadian politics – that former Liberal MP Han Dong had allegedly lobbied China’s regime to keep two Canadians in prison there – that’s a question I’ve been asked many times: if the allegations are true, can Dong be prosecuted for treason?

It’s important to emphasize, here, that the Toronto-area MP hasn’t been charged with any crime. He’s resigned from the Liberal caucus to clear his name – as did a Conservative MPP in Ontario did earlier this month, for similar reasons – but no one has charged Han Dong with breaking any law.

And that may be because there’s no law to charge him with breaking.

In Canada, as with our allies, “treason” remains a serious crime. In the Criminal Code, it is defined in this way: “Every one commits treason who, in Canada, uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province…

“[Or] without lawful authority, communicates or makes available to an agent of a state other than Canada, military or scientific information or any sketch, plan, model, article, note or document of a military or scientific character that he knows or ought to know may be used by that state for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or defence of Canada.”

We’ve got a criminal prohibition against “high treason,” too. But it’s a dramatically higher bar for prosecutors to clear. High treason is killing or attempting to kill our King or Queen – or waging actual war against Canada, or helping the enemy during a time of war.

But, as far as we know, we’re not at war. And, so far, the allegations against Dong don’t seem to fit a “treason” charge, either.

In the United States, someone facing similar charges might not be so lucky.

The Americans don’t mess around. There, treason is a capital offence – you can be put to death for it.

Chapter 115 of the U.S. Code: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years.”

Having sworn an oath to Canada, the allegations Dong faces would be a violation of a similar law here. And “giving aid or comfort” to the enemy – here, China – would easily describe the untried allegations against Han Dong.

In Britain, the law against treason has been around for nearly seven centuries. It’s one of the oldest statutes in the United Kingdom

Though amended many times over the years, The Treason Act 1351, as in Canada, distinguishes between treason and high treason. High treason is killing the King or Queen – but also, originally, less serious offences like making counterfeit currency.

Ironically (given their origins), Americans seem to have borrowed the “aid or comfort” idea from the Brits. There, the allegations against Dong would arguably amount to high treason. The last Briton executed for treason – collaborating with wartime Germany – was hanged in 1946.

For those who remain livid about the allegations against Han Dong, we’re sorry: he can’t be charged with high treason or even mere treason.

He wasn’t a cabinet minister or a senior bureaucrat or a member of the military, so he isn’t easily caught by the new version of the Official Secrets Act, the Security of Information Act. Did he – as the Act says – harm “Canadian interests”?

The interests of the two Michaels, to be sure. But were those identical to Canada’s? That’s less clear.

What’s clear, however, is this: while Han Dong may not be in any legal jeopardy, he sure is, politically.

CSIS is not his friend. And CSIS has apparently decided he needed to be removed from the Trudeau government.

And he has been.

My latest: when in a hole

When in a hole, stop digging.

That’s advice my former boss Jean Chretien used to give us. In life, as in politics, it’s good advice.

The denizens of Parliament Hill — which is essentially 22 square acres surrounded by reality — often forget that. They often forget, or don’t care, that what seems smart or strategic to them looks completely insane to Joe and Jane Frontporch.

The Meech Lake Accord. Hotel rooms costing $6,000 a night. Eighteen dollar orange juice. And on and on: These are just a few of the things that elicit disinterested shrugs by folks in Ottawa. And which cause everyday Canadians to reach for their pitchforks and torches and, sometimes, a sturdy tree branch.

The latest example: The Liberal Party of Trudeau — because, rest assured, it is no longer the Liberal Party of Pearson, Chretien, Turner or Martin — has been in a deep, deep hole over the burgeoning China election interference scandal. Their collective response?

They kept digging.

Here’s what is known: China criminally interfered in our elections in 2019 and 2021. Documents authored by intelligence agencies have made clear that the interference included payoffs, manipulation and disinformation.

Ominously, there has been a suggestion that Justin Trudeau and his office knew all about the interference, and did nothing. Most seriously, the implication has been that the China-friendly Liberal prime minister and his senior staff covered it all up.

The opposition parties, and those of us in the media, have accordingly wanted answers to one key question: What did the prime minister and his chief of staff know, and when did they know it?

Oh, and this question too: What did they do about it, if anything?

Those are not unreasonable questions. But what the Tru regime has been doing in the past few weeks has been unreasonable in the extreme.

Stonewalling, fibbing, prevaricating. Delaying and denying information. And, until this week, doing all that they could to prevent Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff, from being called before committee to answer a few predictable questions.

Full disclosure: I knew Telford in her previous life, when she was simply a lobbyist. She worked at a Toronto lobby firm, and she was decidedly not the boss.

If she did anything of significance in her political life span, it was one thing: Glomming onto Justin Trudeau’s cape, and riding a 2015 wave with him into the Office of the Prime Minister.

This writer has known practically every prime ministerial chief of staff over the past generation. Of all of them, Telford is the least noteworthy. If she ever devised some brilliant innovation or some important policy, nobody knows what it is.

However, as the most senior aide to a prime minister, she would have been briefed on national intelligence matters. Which is why the Opposition want to question her. That is obvious.

What is less obvious — what is completely and totally inexplicable — is why the Liberals are turned into a Nixonian stonewalling operation to prevent Telford’s testimony. That makes no sense. Why?

Three points.

One, their filibustering and fibbing had precisely the opposite effect: By looking so terrified about Telford testifying, they dramatically increased opposition efforts to get Telford to testify. Their stupidity invited the very thing they wanted to avoid.

Two, they had nothing to worry about. Because the Chinese election interference story entirely concerns national security, Telford could not meaningfully answer questions — even if she wanted to. She just needed to say that she was not permitted, by law, to discuss national security matters, and she would be right to say so.

Three, the PMO-led machinations did nothing to prevent their biggest problem: Namely, leaks by anonymous CSIS agents who are alarmed by the Chinese threat to our democratic institutions. As the Liberal efforts to prevent Telford’s testimony grew, so did the leaks.

And the leaks haven’t stopped: Wednesday saw the stunning Global News revelation about former Liberal MP Han Dong — that he allegedly pushed the Chinese regime to hold onto the two Michaels, to help out the Liberals. CSIS, it seems, has now assigned itself the role of the Official Opposition. (Perhaps because they feel the Tories aren’t doing the job.)

So, after spilling pints of political capital all over Parliament Hill, the Trudeau regime finally had to do what everyone knew they were always going to do. Namely, let Katie Telford testify.

And so she will. And she will not be able to say anything meaningful. And the Liberals will have lost oodles of credibility for no reason at all.

In Ottawa, sometimes they are not being strategic. Sometimes they are just being stupid.

This was. So: When in a hole, boys and girls, stop digging.

Warren Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s Special Assistant and ran his successful War Rooms