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Jeff Callaway bids to derail Kamikaze Campaign finance probe -- why won't he wait, like Trump?

Despite obviously having been tempted to shut down the "Russian collusion" investigation when he saw friends and supporters charged with lying to the FBI, aides to U.S. President Donald Trump managed to persuade him to hold his fire.

How?

Although many of us wondered about this during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long investigation, now that the former FBI director has delivered his report concluding there was no collusion the answer is pretty obvious. The president's closest advisors knew that, whatever else had gone on, no hanky-panky with the Russians could be proved.

It must have been very hard to keep the notoriously impulsive Trump in check, but the effort was obviously worthwhile from the president's point of view and that of his Republican Party.

Under the circumstances, lots of Americans, including plenty with a low opinion of both Trump and the Republicans, will probably be willing to forgive him if he uses his presidential power to pardon his convicted cronies in the last days of his administration, whenever those turn out to be.

I want you, my dear Alberta readers, to keep that little drama from south of the 49th Parallel in mind as you contemplate the startling news yesterday that Jeff Callaway and five other people are seeking an emergency court injunction to shut down the Alberta Election Commissioner's investigation into his 2017 campaign to lead the United Conservative Party on the counterintuitive grounds that a general election campaign is no time to investigate illegal financing of an election campaign.

"Requiring Albertans to attend such interviews during the election period interferes with their Charter right to participate in the electoral process, despite that the activity being investigated occurred prior to the election period, and there is no urgency to the investigation," they argue.

There is no more appropriate time in the view the Office of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson, so it will oppose the application by Callaway and company on Monday afternoon, a position that would seem like common sense to most of us.

The CBC reports that in addition to Callaway, his wife Nicole Callaway, Jennifer Thompson, Darren Thompson, Bonnie Thompson and Robyn Lore are listed as applicants in the documents filed with the Calgary Court of Queen's Bench yesterday. All of them indicated in the filing they have been contacted by the Office of the Election Commissioner.

Callaway's campaign, of course, is the one that has come to be known as the "Kamikaze Mission," widely seen as having been intended only to knock off UCP Leader Jason Kenney's chief rival for his present job, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean.

The CBC also revealed that lawyers for Callaway and company had demanded that investigators for the Office of the Election Commissioner not hand their findings over to the RCMP, which is conducting a separate investigation of the campaign. To do so would mean their Charter rights against self-incrimination were not protected, they argued. The Election Commissioner's staff disagreed with that as well.

Both Callaway and Kenney have denied the allegations that led to the investigation, which has so far identified five people it said illegally donated money that was not their own to Callaway's campaign and levied $15,000 in administrative penalties against Cam Davies, Callaway's former communications director, for obstructing an investigation.

It is fair to wonder what would happen to the Election Commissioner's investigation if the court agrees to delay it until after the election, the UCP wins and Kenney becomes premier. Would there even be an Office of the Election Commissioner, let alone a sensitive and potentially embarrassing investigation into the activities of Kenney's friends?

Granted, many of us thought Trump likely had colluded with the Russians during Mueller's investigation, but he never did shut it down, did he?

If Callaway, Kenney and the UCP want us to believe their denials, shouldn't they do as Trump did and hold their fire until the investigation is done?

Derek Fildebrandt should be invited to the TV leaders' debate

Yesterday's other startling story was the news that almost everyone, including supposedly impartial news organizations, doesn't want Freedom Conservative Party Leader Derek Fildebrandt to take part in the televised leaders' debate scheduled for next Thursday.

Sorry, but Fildebrandt is the leader of a party planning to field a significant slate of candidates and that already has an MLA, the leader himself, in the House. The argument he should be excluded because the FCP ran no candidates in 2015 is fatuous. I don't recall the UCP running any candidates then either.

There will doubtless be more to say about this when we know more about what's actually going on.

In the mean time, regardless of strategic considerations, political sympathies or Fildebrandt's ability to entertain, he obviously belongs in the debate on April 4.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: United Conservative Party

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