Trudeau admits 'erosion of trust' between PMO and former justice minister

Clay Curtis
March 7, 2019

The reporter had to prompt him that the question referred to concerns that he and other members of government had inappropriately pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

In her testimony last week, Wilson-Raybould said she had looked Trudeau in the eye during that September 17 meeting and asked if he was trying to interfere politically with her independence as attorney general, and he had said no.

For example, if Wilson-Raybould had pursued a DPA with SNC-Lavalin over the initial objections of the PPSC, she would have had to draft a document stating that for publication in the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the government of Canada where new acts, regulations and proclamations are published.

He said clearly that was not the case and he wishes she had come to him to tell him she did not like the contacts she was receiving. However, should they persist in saying they have no confidence in Trudeau's government, the source said Liberal MPs would likely demand they be kicked out of caucus and Trudeau would refuse to allow them to run for the party again.

After that meeting, Trudeau said, "I asked my staff to follow up regarding Ms. Wilson-Raybould's final decision".

"We considered that she was still open to hearing different arguments and different approaches on what her decision could be", and so "my office continued to have the conversations at different times with her".

Last week Wilson-Raybould outlined for the justice committee 11 meetings and phone calls with 11 different political staff in the Prime Minister's Office, the finance minister's office and the Privy Council Office, which she said were not illegal but overstepped what was appropriate.

Wilson-Raybould had said one of Trudeau's staffers, Mathieu Bouchard, told her that "we can have the best policy in the world, but we need to get re-elected".

He said he continues to believe there was "no inappropriate pressure" put on Wilson-Raybould to relent and offer SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement rather than proceeding to a criminal trial for bribery and fraud.

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"I'm obviously reflecting on lessons learned through this", Trudeau said.

"This has been a tough few weeks", he said, adding he has reviewed all of the testimony given before the House of Commons justice committee in recent weeks on the matter.

The way Trudeau tells it, he told Wilson-Raybould he was "preoccupied" with the number of potential job losses at SNC-Lavalin.

"I realize now that in addition, I should have done so personally given the importance of this issue and the jobs that were on the line". In her testimony, the former attorney general spoke of a "barrage of people hounding" her. Butts claimed they just wanted Wilson-Raybould to accept an outside legal opinion on whether or not to negotiate an agreement. She resigned her cabinet position in February.

Trudeau was asked directly Thursday whether he was apologizing for what unfolded in the SNC-Lavalin case and he stressed that he continues to believe there was "no inappropriate pressure".

"I stressed the importance of protecting Canadian jobs and reiterated that this issue was one of significant national importance".

The spokesperson said the tweet is not related to the SNC-Lavalin controversy and there is no pressing concern about the independence of prosecution in Canada.

But he insisted that Canadians can have faith in the institutions of government.

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