Despite limits on what she can say about things that happened more recently, former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould will be able to speak freely about what pressure she felt not to pursue a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.
But it must be so, as he was able to unequivocally state that the Trudeau cabal never pressured ex-Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould on the SNC Lavalin file.
"I completely disagree with the former attorney general's characterization of events", Trudeau said in Montreal, shortly after Wilson-Raybould concluded four hours of explosive testimony before the House of Commons justice committee. An order-in-council was released last night clearing Wilson-Raybould to tell the justice committee anything about any conversations she had with the Privy Council about her authority on the case while she was attorney general. During that meeting, held two weeks after the director of public prosecutions had ruled out a remediation agreement for SNC-Lavalin, Wernick said Wilson-Raybould informed the prime minister that she had "no intention of intervening" in the matter, although as attorney general she was legally entitled to give direction to the public prosecutor.
The clerk of the Justice committee confirmed on Wednesday that Wilson-Raybould would appear at a meeting on Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. and that she would be permitted a 30-minute opening statement, as she had also requested in her letter to Housefather.
Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti said the order achieves dual objectives.
- A December 19 conversation Wernick had with Wilson-Raybould in which he told her Trudeau and other ministers were "quite anxious" about the potential impact of a criminal conviction on the financial viability of SNC-Lavalin and on innocent employees, shareholders, pensioners and third-party suppliers who would suffer as a result.
On his way in to the caucus meeting, caucus chair Francis Scarpaleggia told reporters that he thinks the historic waiver Trudeau has issued goes far enough to let her speak to the core issue at the heart of the affair.
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The justice committee is examining the growing controversy touched off by a February 7 Globe and Mail report that said Trudeau's aides attempted to press Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin to help the company avoid criminal prosecution on bribery charges related to contracts in Libya.
The waiver given to Wilson-Raybould to speak about her time as attorney general also applies to others in government with whom she spoke about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.
SNC-Lavalin is facing a criminal trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials and was looking for a deferred prosecution agreement which would mean the firm could avoid a fine.
Wilson-Raybould provided a detailed accounting of meetings and phone calls to back up her accusations, breaking three weeks of silence on the affair that has rocked the government, prompting her resignation from cabinet and the departure of Trudeau's most trusted adviser, Gerald Butts. In 2015, as a member of Carleton University's Board of Governors, Wernick referred publicly to student protests against tuition hikes that disrupted a board meeting, as having "no place in a lawful democratic society - (the) tactics of Brownshirts and Maoists".
Citing her chief of staff's account of the exchange, Wilson-Raybould quoted Butts as saying: "There is no solution here that does not involve some interference".
Trudeau has insisted he was always clear that the decision whether to prosecute was hers and hers alone.
According to Wilson-Raybould, Wernick told her that Trudeau wanted to know why SNC-Lavalin was not being offered a remediation agreement. Butts has insisted that at no time did he apply improper pressure on the former minister.