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Mountain of paperwork in BEI’s investigation of UPAC’s leaks to media

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Before BEI even took over the investigation of UPAC leaks to media, the probe had already generated 4.8 million electronic documents


The BEI has assigned 14 investigators “including managers” to look into how information from UPAC investigations into people like former premier Jean Charest, his friend Marc Bibeau and Nathalie Normandeau, a former minister in the Charest government, were leaked to media outlets.


John Kenney / Montreal Gazette files

The independent unit created to investigate police shootings was handed a mountain of paperwork to sort through when it was also asked to investigate how information from high-profile UPAC investigations was leaked to the media.

According to information made public on Friday, Project Serment (Oath in English), the name the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes assigned to the investigation, already consisted of “approximately 4.8 million electronic documents” when the investigation was turned over to them. UPAC originally dubbed the investigation Project A. But, in 2018, it was ordered to turn over the millions of documents over to BEI on 33 hard drives, three memory cards, 23 computer discs and 13 USB keys. All told the evidence turned over to BEI investigators totalled 24 terabytes of digital information.

While the BEI normally assigns eight investigators to probe a fatal police shooting, it has assigned 14 investigators “including managers” to look into how information from UPAC investigations into people like former premier Jean Charest, his friend Marc Bibeau and Nathalie Normandeau, a former minister in the Charest government, were leaked to media outlets like Radio-Canada, L’Actualité and the Journal de Montréal before evidence was disclosed to defence lawyers. The BEI has a total of 42 investigators, not including managers. On Nov. 12, 2018, Michel Lacerte, a former Montreal police investigator who worked as a homicide detective and later an internal affairs investigator, was named as Serment’s principal investigator. The Serment investigation is actually independent of the independent bureau.

“Given the sensitive and delicate nature of the subjects treated and the actors implicated, the administrative and operational structure is independent of the BEI and its location is situated outside of BEI’s offices,” the BEI wrote in a motion filed before Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer at the Montreal courthouse on Friday. The motion is part of BEI’s efforts to maintain a seal on information prepared during the investigation. Cournoyer agreed to hear arguments on the issue at a later date through what might turn out to be closed-door hearings. At the same time, prosecutor Pascal Grimard provided a heavily redacted copy of BEI’s motion to a few media, including The Montreal Gazette, who are following the case.

Lawyers representing other interested parties involved in the case were asked by Cournoyer to not state who they were representing in open court on Friday. The names of the suspects targeted in Project Serment were redacted from the document made public on Friday, as is BEI’s theory of the case.

To support its argument that information related to Project Serment should remain sealed, the bureau contends that some of it falls under attorney-client privilege. The BEI also highlighted how last year it provided evidence related to Project Serment as part of an ongoing case being heard in St-Jérôme involving four men charged with municipal corruption. Less than a month after the information was provided to the court, two of the three documents the BEI provided were referred to in a Journal de Montréal story alleging that a Sûreté du Québec lieutenant was suspected of having misdirected the investigation into Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellete, a retired SQ investigator, to a point that led to his arrest in 2017.

An affidavit produced in Project A, when UPAC was investigating the media leaks, identified Ouellette, a former Liberal MNA who now sits as an independent, as one of four people suspected of leaking information, but he was not charged with any wrongdoing.

Another person who was investigated by UPAC as one of four possible sources of the leaks was an active Sûreté du Québec investigator who had access to sensitive UPAC documents. In 2017, UPAC obtained a warrant to access the SQ investigator’s cellphone. Days after obtaining the warrant, the investigator was asked to turn over his phone but he claimed that was impossible because, during the previous weekend, his cellphone was destroyed after he dropped it while taking a walk and a car ran over it.

To further support its arguments to keep its information under wraps, the BEI highlighted how it disclosed evidence of the “principal elements” of its investigation as part of the criminal case pending against Nathalie Normandeau and four other people in Quebec City in a breach of trust case. In December, a Quebec Court judge agreed, in part, with BEI’s motion to maintain a publication ban on information related to its investigation of media leaks. Part of the evidence presented by BEI for Normandeau’s case was done during a court hearing closed off to the public.

UPAC began the investigation in 2016 after it noticed two reports, by Radio-Canada and the magazine L’Actualité, that appeared to be based on leaks of evidence gathered in its investigations into Normandeau, 51, and Marc-Yvan Côté, 72, a former cabinet minister who is also charged in the case in Quebec City.

pcherry@postmedia.com

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Aide: Media ignores Trump’s loving bond with 13-year-old son – CityNews Vancouver

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WASHINGTON — A top aide to President Donald Trump complained Friday that the news media doesn’t pay enough attention to the president’s loving relationship with his 13-year-old son, Barron.

“The president’s just a really caring father and you don’t see that,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering for conservatives. “The press would never show you that because it doesn’t fit.“

Mulvaney said he noticed on his first trip with the president that Trump had called his son multiple times to check in and let him know when his helicopter would be returning to the White House.

The first lady’s office has requested that the media respect the privacy of the youngest of the president’s five children and discourages writing about him. Her office declined to comment on Mulvaney’s remarks.

The Associated Press

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Kew Media’s Lenders Call In Debts, Pushing TV Group Closer To The Edge – Deadline

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Kew Media Group’s lenders have called in the Canadian TV producer-distributor’s debts, pushing the company closer to the brink of collapse after it was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange last month.

In a statement issued to Kew Media Group’s investors on Friday, the company said Truist Bank has “demanded repayment of all amounts owing under the senior credit facilities,” adding that the bank intends to enforce its security under Canada’s Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. The company’s net debt stood $117M, according to its most recent earnings.

“Following a 10-day notice period, Kew’s senior lenders may take steps to enforce on their security,” the statement added. It is the latest chapter in a disastrous downward spiral for the company after it defaulted on its credit facility last year because it filed “inaccurate” financial information.

Kew Media Group’s subsidiary, the once-thriving British sales house Kew Media Distribution, is also staring down the barrel of a winding-up order, with a court hearing set for next week. Producers including, Leaving Neverland indie Amos Pictures, are fighting to claw back the royalties they are owed from the international sales of their shows.

Other Kew Media Group subsidiaries have also been fleeing the sinking ship. The latest was Frantic Films today after CEO Jamie Brown bought back the company, which makes HGTV’s Backyard Builds. Others who have left the group include UK producer Two Rivers Media, while Dance Moms executive producer Jeff Collins left Kew-backed Collins Avenue Entertainment in January.

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Networks Ramp Up Coronavirus Coverage As White House Accuses Media Of Fearmongering – Deadline

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Networks are ramping up their coronavirus coverage, as concerns escalate of a worldwide spread, major public events are postponed or canceled, and Wall Street experienced its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

The White House contends that the media is raising unnecessary alarm about the virus and its spread in the U.S., even with the intent of hurting President Donald Trump.

As he headed out to a rally in South Carolina on Friday, Trump told reporters, “I think that CNN is a very disreputable network. I think that they are doing everything they can to instill fear in people.”

Earlier in the day, his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference and told the crowd that “the reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be the thing that brings down the president. That’s what this is all about it.”

Mulvaney advised people to tune out the news.

“I got a note today from a reporter saying, what are you going to do today to calm the markets?” he said. “Really what I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours.”

The administration’s attacks on the media are not unusual. But they are coming at a time when public communication of accurate information is essential, if anything to reassure the country that the White House has a handle on the crisis and the risk is still very low.

Trump tried to assuage fears on Wednesday by holding a briefing where he announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be leading the administration’s effort to contain the disease.

But markets continued to slide on Thursday and Friday — the S&P and Dow Jones were down by more than 10% for the week. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell issued a statement to try to calm nerves, saying that “we will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.” But he said that the virus poses “evolving risks to economic activity.”

Trump defended the administration’s response, noting that the administration placed limits weeks ago on travel from China that limited its spread in the U.S.

“Some people are giving us credit for that and some people aren’t. But the only ones who aren’t, they don’t mean it. It’s political. It’s politics,” Trump told reporters.

Pence went on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show on Friday, where he said that the threat of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S. “remains low.”

“With that being said, out of an abundance of caution, we are going to continue to take very, very strong measures and to put the health and safety of the American people first,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Limbaugh claimed that the coronavirus was being “weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.” Pence told him that he has been speaking to Democratic leaders and governors like Gavin Newsom in California, and that “we’re all in this together.”

Meanwhile, networks are announcing plans to boost their coverage of the coronavirus.

NBC News launched a live blog with feed from the network’s medical, business, political and investigative reporters and updates on known cases and new infections. They also are doing a morning newsletter, Morning Rundown Special Edition: Coronavirus Crisis, starting on Monday, with updates from medical correspondent Dr. John Torres and on business ramifications from Ali Velshi. The newsletter also will provide tips to readers.

Among other highlights, Pence will appear on Meet the Press on Sunday, and investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen will answer questions from viewers on Today on Monday.

Fox News is presenting a coronavirus special at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday featuring Leland Vittert.

While increasing their focus on the virus, media outlets also have provided a bit of context.

ABC News’ chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton co-hosted ABC’s The View on Friday, where she noted the greater threat currently posed by flu season and addressed misinformation about the disease.

Among the topics: The idea that Americans should be wearing surgical masks. “They are not to protect the healthy from something coming in,” she said, noting that the Centers for Disease Control was not recommending that the average American wear them now.

“Right now, according to the CDC, this is a highly transmissible virus with a low mortality or fatality rate and that’s really important right now,” she said.

She added, “One of the biggest problems with this story is where people get information and where people get misinformation, and you have to get your information from credible, credentialed sources. If you don’t, not only does it not do you any good, it can actually endanger public health and the response.”

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