'I and my staff always acted appropriately' regarding SNC-Lavalin: Trudeau

Gwen Vasquez
February 28, 2019

Jody Wilson-Raybould raised the spectre of disgraced US president Richard Nixon and Watergate in how she was treated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his minions in the SNC-Lavalin scandal, a.k.a. Lavscam, on Wednesday.

Though Trudeau had invoked solicitor-client privilege and Cabinet confidence on Wilson-Raybould, as the SNC-Lavalin imbroglio intensified political pressure, he relented and Monday evening provided narrow terms: Wilson-Raybould could talk about her time as attorney general, but could not discuss specifics after she was relieved of her duties on January 14 and shuffled to Veterans Affairs.

Former Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said on Wednesday that government officials inappropriately pressured her to help a major firm facing a bribery trial and that she confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the matter.

"He's the prime minister, for heaven's sake". "My response - and I remember this vividly - was to ask the PM a direct question while looking him in the eye - I asked: 'Are you politically interfering with my role/my decision as the AG?"

Opposition MPs accuse Mr Trudeau of trying to cover up an attempt by officials to help SNC-Lavalin, which could be banned from bidding for federal contracts for a decade if found guilty on charges of bribing Libyan officials.

He also welcomed the investigation of the ethics commissioner while he rejected calls by the leader of the opposition Conservative Party to resign, saying Canadians will have a choice later this year in parliamentary elections.

Except the efforts to get her to change her mind didn't end there, Wilson-Raybould said Wednesday, nor were they confined to the prime minister. The story she told Wednesday at the Commons justice committee is so vastly different from everything the prime minister has said until now that the two versions simply can't be reconciled.

She told the hearing: "For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the case". She said Trudeau brought up the upcoming Quebec provincial election on October 1 and him serving as a Quebec MP in their discussions. So did Gerald Butts, the government's principal secretary and a close college friend of Trudeau who is widely credited as being the architect of his electoral victory in 2015. (The answer is "more so.") Wilson-Raybould's testimony has added colour to the detail already outlined before the committee by Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council.

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Trudeau also left open the possibility that he will boot Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus.

In her testimony, Wilson-Raybould cited in-person conversations, telephone calls, email messages, text message exchanges and her contemporaneous notes to detail a pressure campaign that she said made her have "thoughts of the Saturday Night Massacre", a reference to a series of resignations prompted by political pressure during the Watergate scandal. I urge them to do so.

Trudeau said last week he had been concerned about possible job losses at the firm.

"In my view, these events constituted pressure to intervene in a matter and that this pressure, or political interference to intervene, was not appropriate", she told the committee. Trudeau said he hadn't reviewed her entire testimony and needed to see that before he made any decision on her membership.

Some of those outside federal politics commended Wilson-Raybould for coming forward in the first place.

The details are as shocking as they are corrupt: multiple veiled threats to her job if she didn't bow to their demands.

Wilson-Raybould reiterated her intention to remain part of the Liberal team as she exited the committee room, even though she refused during questioning to say whether she still had confidence in the leader of that team.

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