Butts Sinks Trudeau Government Deeper into the Muck

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancels visit to Regina

During explosive testimony last week, Wilson-Raybould said Trudeau, Butts and others pressured her over a series of months to soften prosecution of Lavalin in order to shore up the Liberal Party's popularity in Quebec ahead of this year's elections.

Butts also stressed in his testimony that there was no pressure on Wilson-Raybould to change her decision on SNC-Lavalin, only to inform the decision with the outside expert opinion of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

A motion was put forward at the committee to have Wilson-Raybould return to respond to Butts' testimony, but it was defeated by the Liberal majority on the committee.

Wilson-Raybould saw those "normal operations" as part of a "consistent and sustained effort" over four months to get her to overturn the decision of the independent public prosecutor for political reasons. Wilson-Raybould and Treasury Board President Jane Philpott both resigned from cabinet.

"It was about ensuring that the attorney general was making her decision with the absolute best evidence possible", Butts said during his testimony Wednesday.

As Gerald Butts and Michael Wernick defended themselves before the House of Commons justice committee, they came prepared with not only a carefully curated choice of words, but carefully selected attire.

The former top adviser to Prime Minister Trudeau gave a measured and thorough presentation to committee members. But Wilson-Raybould said the pressure was not illegal and said she was not instructed to interfere. That would allow the company to continue to compete for federal contracts. He claimed that the first time she raised the issue in a serious way was at the time of the cabinet shuffle, in which she went from the justice portfolio to veterans affairs.

Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick prepares to appear before the Justice Committee regarding the SNC-Lavalin scandal and the resignation of attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, on Parliament Hill on March 6, 2019.

Did Wilson-Raybould misunderstand the terms of the waiver that permitted her to speak at all? "Imagine for a moment that on September the 16th-the day the former attorney general told this committee the decision was made, firmly and finally-that she made a public announcement to inform Canadians of that decision".

Liberals are hoping they'll get some ammunition today to fight back against accusations of political interference in the justice system when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's former principal secretary tells his side of the SNC-Lavalin saga.

"In the end, it was the attorney general's alone to make, and it would be for all of us to explain". It was clear that he arrived in that committee room, which feels oddly subterranean despite being a huge space located on the fourth floor of a slickly refurbished government building, acutely aware that it would be politically disastrous for him to look like he was impugning Wilson-Raybould in any way.

If he does so, that would represent an about-face for Trudeau - who began by branding the allegations as false when they first became public, then insisted no one had directed Wilson-Raybould to do anything, before suggesting that her view of the 20 or so discussions last fall over SNC-Lavalin is simply different from his own. "They have a very secure financial situation, with gross revenues of $10 billion", she said. Federal elections are being held in October, however, and at least one poll says the Liberals are now trailing the Conservatives by a small margin.

Canada's ethics commissioner is investigating the affair but that will take months.

During his testimony, Butts repeatedly referred to text message exchanges between himself and Wilson-Raybould, emails, and his recollections of meetings, including a December 5 dinner at the Chateau Laurier.

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