Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts said on Sunday he had provided information to the House of Commons justice committee in response to material filed last week by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould on the ongoing SNC-Lavalin controversy.
Butts said in a tweet his information comprised notes and texts of exchanges between himself and Wilson-Raybould.
On Friday, the justice committee released a 43-page brief from Wilson-Raybould that includes emails and text messages. In addition, the former justice minister also provided a 17-minute audio clip of a secretly recorded telephone call between herself and Michael Wernick, the country’s top public servant.
In the Dec. 19 call, Wernick repeatedly asks her why she isn’t using all the tools at her disposal on the SNC-Lavalin case. She pushes back, saying she would not override the decision of the director of public prosecutions to pursue criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin for bribery and fraud.
Wernick told her the prime minister was “quite determined” on the matter and would likely “find a way to get it done one way or another.”
In her written submission, Wilson-Raybould acknowledged recording the conversation was an “extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step,” but said she felt it necessary to have an exact record of what was discussed.
Wernick declined to comment but his lawyer, Frank Addario, said recording the call was “inappropriate.”
The former attorney general testified earlier this month that she believes she was moved out of the prestigious justice portfolio to Veterans Affairs in a mid-January cabinet shuffle as punishment for refusing to succumb to relentless pressure last fall from Trudeau, his senior staff, Wernick and others to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case. She resigned from cabinet a month later.
Butts, who resigned as Trudeau’s principle secretary last month, told the justice committee he believes nobody from the Prime Minister’s Office did anything wrong and that Wilson-Raybould never complained about facing undue pressure.
Butts submitted the additional material to support his own version of events to the committee on Sunday. The documents must be translated into French and their release approved by panel members before public release.
Chairman Anthony Housefather said Sunday he was not exactly sure how long this process could take, but said it would normally be a day or two.
Speaking in Brampton, Ont., Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Butts’ latest action shows the Liberal government was too quick to shut down the justice committee investigation into whether undue political pressure was brought to bear on the attorney general over prosecuting SNC-Lavalin.
“Beyond a shadow of a doubt now, we know that there was high-level attempt to interfere in this process,” Scheer said. “Now we’re calling on the ethics committee to allow an investigation to proceed.”
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press
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