PM calls press conference to insist text message deletion began months before Minkgate

Commission asked for SMSs in April, but key government officials waited until September before confirming they were all erased

The nemesis that won’t go away!
November 4th, 2021 9:28 am| by Ben Hamilton
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Danish PM Mette Frederiksen seems to like press conferences. In fact, she’s called so many on Friday evenings you’d be forgiven for thinking she takes sadistic pleasure out of eating into our valuable drinking time – particularly journalists!

Normally they’re about corona. Lockdowns, restrictions, grave calls to arms that led to preposterous queues at the local supermarket – she likes a bit of drama when addressing the nation.

And last night was no different, albeit with a different focus: Minkgate, the nemesis that refuses to go away, which some pundits believe might hit Socialdemokratiet hard at the polls in the local and regional elections on November 16.

Trials are journalistic trials
At a newspaper like this, with pretty limited resources, you have to make a decision early-doors about how much you’re going to write about a lengthy trial.

The opening day and the verdict, granted: put it on the story list. Likewise salacious detail – a daily report on the Peter Madsen trial was a no-brainer.

But minutes on Minkgate or Inge Støjberg’s case? Forget it! She said, he said, indecipherable legalese and parentheses, there’s a limit to how many stories you want to read about conflicting recollections.

Why were they deleted?
The bottom line in this trial is whether Frederiksen and her chums knew there was a lack of legal authority when they decided in early November 2020 to cull all 17 million of the mink in Denmark.

We’ve heard the testimonies of 26 witnesses over eight days in the courtroom, and there is no damning evidence as yet.

But the one recurring element is why are all the PM’s texts automatically deleted 30 days after they are sent.

This was the issue that Frederiksen went on television yesterday evening to address (right in the middle of the Champions League football, it must be added – are you seeing a pattern here?).

Happened over the summer of 2020
Frederiksen insists the automatic deletion of text messages began well before the affairs of Minkgate.

She couldn’t say exactly when, but she revealed it was the head of the PM’s office, Barbara Bertelsen, who advised her to set up the automatic deletion – at the latest in the summer of 2020.

“It happened before the cull,” she said, before spelling it out again: “And it happened before the Mink Commission was set up.”

A curious timeline
Even if the text messages still existed, they would not throw any new light onto the proceedings, she added – particularly “about my knowledge of the legal basis” for the decision.

However, she did concede that some of the texts are written in a “direct language and in a sharp tone”.

Frederiksen and other key members of the government were asked to safeguard all text messages pertaining to Minkgate in April. It took them until September to reveal they were deleted.

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