Bill Clinton lays judgment on Rob Ford as Toronto investigation hits speed bump

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

Give credit to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, the man knows how to stay in the spotlight.

Fresh off a bizarre decision to vote against city council motions to honour Nelson Mandela and the Canadian Olympic team, Ford made more headlines thanks to his Hollywood pal Jimmy Kimmel.

The late-night talk show host, who has cultivated an everlasting fascination with Toronto's mayor, asked former U.S. president Bill Clinton about Ford during a recent appearance. Clinton's response lacked the gleeful tone some Americans have taken when it comes to Ford's foibles.

"I will say this, he has absolutely destroyed every stereotype people have about Canadians," Clinton told Kimmel during his Wednesday night appearance.

"Canadians are upbeat, optimistic, can-do. They are embracing, they are inclusive.... Everything I ever believed about Canadians, old Rob has proved stereotypes are not good. Positive or negative."

The ruling does not come from a source that can necessarily be considered impartial, considering the seeming politically misalignment between Ford and Clinton (though I’m sure either really cares). But it could be the most closure the public ever receives in regards to Ford, with reports on Thursday that an investigation into criminal allegations hit a speed bump this week.

The ongoing police investigation involving Ford is apparently not going as smoothly as political opponents and legal sticklers would desire, with new reports that there is a difference of opinion between Toronto police investigators and Ontario Provincial Police observers.

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The Toronto Star reports that sources inside the investigation have confirmed that the OPP is stepping back from the case after reaching conclusions that were not necessarily supported by the case's front-line investigators.

The newspaper reports that Toronto detectives believe the man who made a video purportedly showing Ford smoking from a crack pipe, and his associates, were targets of an extortion attempt by Ford's friend Alexander Lisi.

Via the Star's Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle:

The Ontario Provincial Police detective who was asked to oversee the case saw it differently, contending that the alleged drug dealer who filmed the one-minute video may have tried to extort money from Ford.

Provincial investigators were asked to step in and provide oversight of the long-running Toronto investigation last month after Toronto Chief Bill Blair said a public personal dispute led by Ford and his brother threatened to cloud the investigation.

Project Brazen 2 was launched last year after Ford's name, and the apparent existence of the video, came up during a massive Etobicoke drug investigation. Lisi has been charged with drug trafficking and extortion. Ford has not been charged in the investigation.

The latest revelation – that OPP officers do not necessarily agree with the working conclusion of the Toronto police probe – could suggest that charges will never be laid against Ford in the case. A police spokesman told the Star the investigation is ongoing and that it had been validated by Crown attorneys and judges.

Many details of the investigation have come to light through the courts, which have publicly released portions of police documents requesting various warrants, most recently for data from Lisi's cellphone. A cursory look at the public evidence would seem to suggest that the two theories are not mutually exclusive.

[ Related: Toronto mayor votes against Mandela; a mistake, he says ]

The Toronto police's focus appears to be whether anyone played a role in Lisi's alleged attempt to intimidate those with the cellphone into burying the video. The Star cites internal police sources who say the head OPP investigator believes Ford was the victim of an extortion attempt by those seeking to profit from the video.

It is possible that both scenarios are true and, were that the case, it would seem bizarre to conclude that one alleged extortion attempt could trump another.

Still, the matter simmers while Toronto's mayoral campaign heats up. Ford's rival candidates have seemed somewhat hesitant to address the investigation. It seems more likely today that the matter will be left to voters on Election Day. And nothing Bill Clinton says will change that.

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