USA TODAY International Edition

Report says UK leader lied about gatherings

Committee: Johnson’s ‘ conduct was deliberate’

- Kim Hjelmgaard

LONDON − Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliberate­ly misled Parliament over what he knew about alcohol- fueled parties and gatherings at his Downing Street office and residence in central London when COVID- 19 infections were skyrocketi­ng and the country was under a strict lockdown.

That’s the conclusion of a longawaite­d 30,000- word report published Thursday by seven lawmakers from the House of Commons’ so- called privileges committee, which investigat­es suspected parliament­ary wrongdoing. The scathing report said Johnson’s “conduct was deliberate,” that he committed “a serious contempt of the House” and did so on an issue of “greatest importance to the House and to the public, and did so repeatedly.”

The report also found that Johnson was complicit in a “campaign of abuse and attempted intimidati­on of the committee” and that his behavior effectivel­y amounted to an “attack on our democratic institutio­ns” − damning accusation­s that will be difficult to shake off even for a seasoned and gifted political maverick whose commitment to the art of the comeback is often compared to that of another former world leader, Donald Trump.

“It is completely unpreceden­ted for a former prime minister to be found to have been a law- breaker and serial liar,” Liberal Democrat opposition lawmaker Daisy Cooper said in a statement.

The inquiry into Johnson’s behavior is highly critical but has no legal consequenc­es. If he were still a lawmaker, he could have faced a 90- day suspension. But he’s not, so it’s academic, though lawmakers will vote Monday on whether to endorse the report’s findings and sanctions. Johnson resigned ahead of the report’s release, claiming there was a “witch hunt under way, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result,” references to Britain’s controvers­ial vote to leave the European Union, which he backed.

In a statement Thursday, Johnson said that the report “twisted the truth” and that its findings were the “final knife- thrust in a protracted political assassinat­ion − that is beyond contempt.”

A separate public inquiry into how Johnson’s government responded to the pandemic, complete with emotional impact statements from witnesses, is expected to continue for the next six weeks. At the height of the pandemic, Britain had one of the world’s highest COVID- 19 death rates, according to Our World in Data. Johnson pursued policies that relaxed restrictio­ns far earlier than many other European countries did.

Johnson has not been barred from running for reelection as a lawmaker. He may not need a job straight away: The British press has reported he has made millions of dollars in speaking fees since leaving office last year.

 ?? AFP ?? Boris Johnson appears in Parliament in April 2022.
AFP Boris Johnson appears in Parliament in April 2022.

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