Contradictions in Butts' testimony may mean Wilson-Raybould testifies again: former diplomat

April FrancisMar 07, 2019

A onetime senior aide to Justin Trudeau, Gerald Butts, defended the Canadian Prime Minister in a testimony given to the House of Commons justice committee on Wednesday, arguing that there was no misconduct involved in the dismissal of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, or in her investigation into engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

Butts disagrees on the timeline and nature of the interactions, saying that it was "inconceivable" that anyone in the Prime Minister's office would act in such a manner, and he said that no government official, Trudeau included, would "direct or ask the attorney general to negotiate a remediation agreement".

As a result, Butts said Trudeau and the PMO determined that only Jane Philpott had the capacity and institutional knowledge to take over the complicated role, but anxious what signal it would send by shuffling one of its most capable ministers from the Indigenous Services portfolio.

"For a period of approximately four months between September and December 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with SNC-Lavalin", she testified. Treasury Board President Jane Philpott was one of the most respected members of government, and political observers described her departure as a major blow.

Citing the RCMP investigation now underway, Conservative MP Michael Cooper made a motion at the start of the meeting to compel Butts to testify under oath, saying if he lied he would not only be in contempt of parliament but contempt of court.

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However, Mr Conacher, who co-founded Democracy Watch, said Ms Wilson-Raybould's testimony was enough for a prosecution to be brought against Mr Trudeau so a Canadian court can determine if there was any wrongdoing.

Butts, in his opening statement, told the committee that he believed any discussions that Prime Minister's Office officials had with Wilson-Raybould were about asking for her to consider a second opinion.

Wilson-Raybould declined to answer last week if she had confidence in Trudeau. "It was about ensuring that the attorney general was making her decision with the absolute best evidence possible", Butts said during his testimony Wednesday. So far, other Liberal Cabinet ministers are rallying around him. "It wasn't an accusation, it wasn't a threat, it was genuine surprise that someone I had spent so much time with, and the Prime Minister had spent so much time with, could interpret the move in such a dark light".

"I am fully aware that two people can experience the same event differently", he said. "I think it's shocking to a lot of Canadians to see inside how cabinet and the (Prime Minister's Office) works", Rusnak told CKPR Radio. She then quit cabinet and gave her version of events in explosive testimony last week.

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