Naïve? Joe Giglio? Not quite…

By taking such clear, unequivocal aim at the very source of all this ‘Evangelical Trust’, Joe Giglio has also forced the Nationalist Party – and arguably those NGOs, too – to at least question its own, unswerving faith in the matter

One of the effects of having conducted so many press interviews, over the years, is that… it’s difficult to watch other people do the same thing, without projecting myself into their shoes.

So when I finally got round to watching the interview that caused such a ruckus this week – you know: the one where Opposition Home Affairs spokesman Joe Giglio casually declared (around 500 times, in the space of five minutes) that he has ‘serious reservations about Maria Efimova’s credibility’ – I couldn’t help but pay close attention to Andrew Azzopardi’s facial expression, at… around 15:16 on this video, to be precise.

OK, you can’t exactly describe it as a ‘Frost-Nixon moment’ – well, maybe you can, in a vaguely satirical way – but it does seem to similarly capture the precise moment, of an (admittedly far less dramatic) onscreen revelation.

It starts with Andrew Azzopardi breaking into a cheeky laugh, while sardonically commending Giglio on his earlier, ‘clinical’ replies; then – with increasingly wilder gesticulations - he invites the Nationalist shadow minister to contemplate the extraordinary implications of what he himself had only just said.

Even if you don’t pick it up from Azzopardi’s body-language, it emerges quite clearly from his question. I’m taking the liberty to paraphrase it here (again, you can watch the original video), but to my ears it sounded a whole lot like:

“You do realise, don’t you, that what you just said has fired a torpedo directly into the engine-room of… not just those ‘certain NGOs’ you keep referring to; but also, your own party? Because, in case you hadn’t noticed: the PN has spent most of the past five years, basing its entire platform on the presumed veracity of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s 2017 Egrant allegations: which, in turn, were based exclusively on documentation provided by Maria Efimova herself… whose credibility you have only just finished seriously - but SERIOUSLY - undermining…”

And, well, this brings me to the truly jaw-dropping part. At a certain level, I can understand how so many people out there (judging by comments I’ve seen, anyway) might interpret Joe Giglio’s casual bombshell as some sort of naïve ‘gaffe’, on the part of an inexperienced politician. That is to say: being new to the political game, Joe Giglio has simply not yet learnt that there is ‘a time to speak your mind; and a time to keep your trap firmly SHUT’.

Heck, it is even possible (though I doubt it) that Andrew Azzopardi himself might have had a similar impression, even as he asked that question… in which case, my early paraphrase would have to be reworded: ‘Is it possible that someone such as yourself – not just a politician, but a seasoned criminal lawyer, with years of experience at the bar – would be so naïve as to utter such politically explosive statements… without even being remotely aware of their implications?’)

But I find it far likelier that Azzopardi’s interpretation was actually closer to my own. He was probably more ‘surprised’ that someone like Joe Giglio would so candidly ‘fire that torpedo into the engine-room’: not only in full knowledge of the damage that this would cause; but in a way that suggests he was actually aiming to cause maximum damage, while he was at it…

Either way, however: up until this point, we are forced to concede the (highly unlikely) possibility that Giglio may indeed have experienced a momentary ‘lapsus’, there… and that he just started spouting out his own personal opinions, in that absent-minded (and refreshingly honest) way that politicians sometimes, but very rarely, do…

But after our ‘Azzopardi-Giglio’ moment? Not anymore! By this point, the enormity of those political implications has been (very capably, it must be said) plastered into his face by the interviewer; and in the form of a question, no less… which, by definition, demands an answer.

So, um… what was Joe Giglio’s reply? At the risk of yet another paraphrase, it was to (metaphorically) shrug his shoulders, and say: “Yeah, I know. I fired a torpedo into my own party’s engine-room. And guess what? I did it on bloody purpose, too!”

OK, maybe I added that last part myself… but nonetheless, even if the wording was (once again) ‘clinical and lawyer-like’, there can be no denying his actual intentions, from this point onwards.

Clearly, Joe Giglio knew all along that his statements would only prize open the very wound that has so effectively torn the Nationalist Party in two, over the past five years. And by extension, this also suggests that he was fully expecting the barrage of outrage and criticism he would inevitably receive.

Yet not only did he go ahead and do it all the same… but he openly invited all that criticism, too (his exact words were: ‘They can come chasing after me all they like!”)

At this point, the question of whether he ‘did it on purpose’ becomes somewhat academic, really. This leaves us to the question of WHY he did…

… and here, I must confess that my guess is as good as yours.

But still: on the understanding that this entire controversy – the Egrant affair, with all its unanswered (and possibly unanswerable) questions – has all along been a matter of pure speculation, right from the very beginning; and also, because I’ve been listening to a lot of Mozart recently (leading me to the inevitable conclusion that: ‘Cosi Fan Tutti!’…)

… what the heck? If ‘my guess is as good than yours’… then it’s no worse than anyone else’s, is it?

So for what it’s worth: here are couple of other possibilities, to account for Joe Giglio’s revelations in that interview. Starting with the one that Giglio himself emphasised so heavily throughout (500 times in five minutes, remember?): i.e., that he not only has serious doubts about Maria Efimova’s credibility, as a whistle-blower… but that his own personal involvement in at least one other case (two, if you include the allegations of police mistreatment in custody) have convinced him that this person is – again, in his own words – ‘malevolent’.

Naturally, I will not venture into the actual question of whether Maria Efimova IS, in fact, ‘malevolent’; but what Joe Giglio is telling us there is that – on the basis of his own direct involvement (and yes: that also means ‘looking at it from the perspective of his ex-clients, as a former lawyer for Pilatus Bank’) – she is simply ‘not a person to be trusted’.

But, oh look: the party he himself belongs to has, in fact, done nothing but ‘trust her blindly’ for the past five years (with political results that have, let’s face it, been utterly CATASTROPHIC for the PN…).

On a separate note, Joe Giglio can surely see – just as clearly as you and I can – that the entire demarcation line of this ‘civil war’, that has almost literally detruncated the Nationalist Party in the meantime, has from the outset been rooted in precisely in the same problem of ‘trust’.

It may not have always centred so precisely on the Egrant allegations, in themselves; but it has always been a question of whether or not (as Andrew Azzopardi rightly put in, in his question) we “BELIEVE in Daphne Caruana”… or we “BELIEVE in Simon Busuttil (when he ‘put his own head on the block’, etc.)”

So by taking such clear, unequivocal aim at the very source of all this ‘Evangelical Trust’, Joe Giglio has also forced the Nationalist Party – and arguably those NGOs, too – to at least question its own, unswerving faith in the matter.

It is also worth mentioning that, while his former connections to Pilatus Bank do place him in an awkward position, to be ‘questioning Maria Efimova’s credibility’… it also positions himself rather well to view certain proceedings that are, quite frankly, invisible to the rest of us.

Consider, for instance, how often Joe Giglio name-drops people ‘he knows personally’, in those five minutes. Including not just the directors of the bank itself; but the police inspectors Efimova later accused of mistreatment; the Magistrate who presided over the Egrant enquiry… basically, the same people who have investigated (at whatever level, and however thoroughly) her behaviour throughout that affair.

Obviously, it doesn’t add up to any concrete evidence that Maria Efimova was, in fact, ‘fraudulent’. (Some would even argue it does the opposite, in fact). But it might offer an explanation for why Joe Giglio himself was so surprisingly unfazed by Andrew Azzopardi’s questions.

We are, of course, still in the realm of guesswork; so I’ll keep this part brief… but (to me, at any rate) it is perfectly conceivable that Joe Giglio may actually know a good deal more than he let on in that interview; and that all those ‘serious reservations’ of his, were actually just a warning shot – fired repeatedly across the bows of his own party – not to place such naïve trust, in someone who could very easily (and very embarrassingly) turn out to be… a con.

And having already established that: a) that is his own personal assessment of the matter anyway - whether or not it is ‘a reflection of the official PN position’ - and; b) this issue marks the very demarcation line, of the divide that is still tearing the Nationalist Party asunder to this day…  well, it looks to me as though Joe Giglio also wants to be damn sure that he ends up ‘on the winning side’ of that war: if  - or ‘when’, as he himself so clearly seems to think – that actually happens...