Trudeau under fire over interference allegations in fraud case

James Marshall
February 10, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is denying that senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office "directed" Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was justice minister and attorney-general to intervene in the corruption and fraud case of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., but he would not say whether they tried to influence her to abandon a prosecution and trial of the Montreal corporate giant.

According to the Globe, Wilson-Raybould was unwilling to play along and did not follow through despite the high-level pressure. CBC News has not independently verified the claims.

Trudeau has flatly denied the allegations.

"Mr. Speaker, at no point has the current minister of justice or the former minister of justice been directed or pressured by the prime minister or the Prime Minister's Office to make any decision on this or any other matter", Virani said.

The bombshell report prompted intense backlash in the House of Commons on Thursday.

The accusation as reported by the Globe and Mail that officials attempted to influence the Justice Minister.

"The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false", he said at a press conference in Vaughan.

"Even more shocking, the prime minister may have fired her from her role as our country's first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general", said McLeod, the Conservative party's Indigenous Affairs critic.

"We knew the Trudeau Liberals were willing to do shady things to help their ultra-rich friends - but this is something else".

According to the Globe and Mail, PMO officials met with SNC-Lavalin lobbyists and attempted to pressure the former AG to intervene in a corruption and fraud case that the company is now embroiled in.

The prime minister was not in Ottawa to respond to the allegations.

Conservative and NDP members pressed the government for details of any conversations that may have taken place on the file in government circles, including between the Prime Minister's Office and the attorney general's office. "MPs have a duty to determine what exactly happened here and Justin Trudeau and his office must be forthcoming".

"When the lobbyists meet with someone, they have to register and register what it was about", she said. "I think this is an absolute sign of political interference".

But no pressure does not mean there were no discussions about the issue, officials said. "So it has become a war of words, if you will, about picking and choosing and picking apart", Rudd said. Much deeper. Wilson-Raybould was unable to mask still-evident shock. "We are now learning that the government threw her under the bus".

"You use the term "firing.' I use the term, 'being moved to a portfolio" - because Scott Brison resigned, of course, that's why there was a shuffle", she said.

In the extensive conversations with Lametti about his new job, the matter was never mentioned, the source added.

The issue has hit social media hard.

Scheer says he supports an NDP call for an investigation, noting the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is calling for a criminal investigation.

"If it had happened when I was attorney general, I would've called 911", Bryant told CTV's Power Play.

Wilson-Raybould was removed from her position as AG and Justice Minister in a cabinet shuffle earlier this year in January. "The attorney general of Canada is the chief law officer of the Crown and provides legal advice to the government with the responsibility to act in the public interest".

The governing Liberals amended the Criminal Code as part of an omnibus budget implementation bill in 2018 to allow these kinds of agreements.

The Globe reported that PMO aides leaned heavily on Wilson-Raybould to persuade the federal director of public prosecutions to negotiate a "remediation agreement" with SNC-Lavalin as a way of holding it to account for wrongdoing by some of its executives, rather than pursuing a criminal prosecution that could financially hobble the company.

That left her successor at Justice, Lametti, to fend off opposition charges Thursday of political interference in the justice system.

In her most recent statement on the affair, Wilson-Raybould said she would not be commenting on the allegations because of her "solicitor-client privilege".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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