News Corp Scandal: Is James Murdoch About to Fall?
Brace yourselves everyone. While multiple police enquiries into various aspects of Murdoch's Newscorp are grinding their slow progress through the summer, Tom Watson, the heroic MP and campaigner who has plugged the hackgate story for many wilderness years has just tweeted:
Documents submitted to DCMS select committee will be published at 12.59pm. On dcms web site. Lobby- I'll be in grimond room at 1pm.
Over the weekend Watson laid the ground for these new revelations:
Reading documents related to hacking that I'm not allowed to reveal. They're dynamite though. And no point in journos asking for them.
What's at stake: James Murdoch and the 'For Neville' Email
Just to give some context to this. I've always held that morally and politically, the appearance of James and Rupert Murdoch before the House of Commons Media, Culture and Sport Select Committee last month was a crucial moment, because the most powerful man in Britain (Rupert) had to finally meet the people's elected representatives. Most of that appearance was PR and spin (they weren't testifying under oath) and apart from the pie, and Ruperts 'Wizard of Oz' moment, it was fairly boring: especially with James mouthing bland MBA type platitudes.
However, in one crucial submission, James Murdoch claimed that, during a massive payout to a hacking victim in 2009, he knew nothing of the broader scandal. Tom Watson asked him:
"When you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of the full Neville email, the transcript of the hacked voicemail messages?"
"No, I was not aware of that at the time."
The former editor and legal advisor to NI have said:
"Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday's CMS Select Committee hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken....In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor's lawyers."
The dossier includes responses by Mr Murdoch to additional questions from MPs, as well as testimony from the paper's head lawyer, Tom Crone, and Colin Myler, who edited the NOTW before it was closed by the Murdoch family's media empire, News Corporation.
It addresses the issue of whether Mr Murdoch knew of a crucial email which undermined the explanation that hacking was due to one "rogue reporter". Last week, Tom Watson, a Labour MP on the committee, said the documents were "dynamite" and he would vote for their disclosure....
Mr Murdoch, the boss of News Corp in Europe, stands by his testimony to MPs that he had no knowledge of the so-called "for Neville" email, which suggests that knowledge of hacking went beyond one reporter at the NOTW. But his assertion has been challenged by Mr Myler and Mr Crone, who say Mr Murdoch was aware of the email in 2008, when he signed off on a £700,000 out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers' Association. The Independent understands that a submission has also been supplied to MPs by Harbottle & Lewis, the law firm which conducted a review of internal News International emails in 2007 and found they contained no evidence of "illegal actions".
Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who reviewed the documents in
In other words, the revelations today could prove that James Murdoch was lying to Parliament, and that the last five years of Newscorp's activities have been a massive coverup.
I was watching All the President's Men again last night, and one of Deep Throat's lines stuck with me.
Deep Throat: "In a conspiracy like this, you build from the outer edges and go step by step. If you shoot too high and miss, everybody feels more secure "
So maybe this will finally move the scandal right up to the senior management of Newscorp and the Murdoch family? Has Watson shot to high? Will this be a damp squib? Or the beginning of the end for James?
Bear with me as I update this diary below the fold with news of whatever the next stage of this scandal holds. The best liveblog is the Guardian's. The documents will be released at 8 a.m. EST, but Robert Peston (who has good contacts with a senior NI executive Will Lewis) isalready leaking some of the revelations from Harbottle and Lewis, the law firm engaged at the time.
Harbottle & Lewis says News International and the Murdochs were wrong to rely on its advice as evidence that hacking was not widespread
When your lawyers turn against you, as Annette K diaried this weekend, in a perspicacious piece about the Watergate analogies by John Dean, then you're in trouble.
Coming from All Sides: The Goodman Letter
Fifteen minutes before the official release: this comes in. It's a letter from the former NoW Royal Correspondent Clive Goodman who was jailed along with the private investigator Glynn Mulcaire.
Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and their former editor Andy Coulson all face embarrassing new allegations of dishonesty and cover-up after the publication of an explosive letter written by the News of the World's disgraced royal correspondent, Clive Goodman.
In the letter, which was written four years ago but published only on Tuesday, Goodman claims that phone hacking was "widely discussed" at editorial meetings at the paper until Coulson himself banned further references to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in hacking when he came to court; and that his own hacking was carried out with "the full knowledge and support" of other senior journalists, whom he named.
A smoking gun I think. But does it shoot high enough? And is there more? Tom Watson has said
"Clive Goodman's letter is the most significant piece of evidence that has been revealed so far. It completely removes News International's defence. This is one of the largest cover-ups I have seen in my lifetime."
Niick Davies goes on to report:
In a particularly embarrassing allegation, he (Goodman) adds: "Tom Crone and the editor promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me." In the event, he lost his appeal. But the claim that the paper induced him to mislead the court is one that may cause further problems for News International.
Two versions of Goodman's letter were provided to the committee. One which was supplied by Harbottle and Lewis has been redacted to remove the names of journalists, at the request of police. The other, which was supplied by News International, has been redacted to remove not only the names but also all references to hacking being discussed in Coulson's editorial meetings and to Coulson's offer to keep Goodman on staff if he agreed not to implicate the paper.
The company also faces a new claim that it misled parliament. In earlier evidence to the select committee, in answer to questions about whether it had bought Goodman's silence, it had said he was paid off with a period of notice plus compensation of no more than £60,000. The new paperwork, however, reveals that Goodman was paid a full year's salary, worth £90,502.08, plus a further £140,000 in compensation, plus £13,000 to cover his lawyer's bill. Tom Watson said: "It's hush money. I think they tried to buy his silence." Murdoch's executives have always denied this.
Steve Hewlett, a senior media journalist, and not one tied into the 'Get Murdoch' campaign, has just made this intervention which hits to the heart of it (I was thinking of changing the title of this diary until I came across this):
If it ends up looking as if James Murdoch has done anything other than tell the whole truth, and in all fairness to him I have no reason to believe he hasn't told the whole truth. ....anything that emerges that throws serious doubt on what James Murdoch says it clearly going to be damaging to him.