Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould

Wilson-Raybould documents detail pressure tactics

Wernick warns Trudeau was in "that kind of mood," Butts tries to convince Wilson-Raybould with a false story about Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell

March 29, 2019 7:03 pm

Former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould released an audio recording of a conversation with Canada’s top bureaucrat Friday in which she warned that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “was on dangerous ground” by attempting to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould recorded a Dec. 19, 2018 conversations with Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, in which he told her that Mr. Trudeau was in “that kind of mood” and wanted the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin to be shelved.

“He is in a pretty firm frame of mind about this, so I am a bit worried,” Wernick tells her. “It is not a good idea for the Prime Minister and the attorney-general to be at loggerheads.”

Wilson-Raybould replies that she was trying to protect Trudeau from charges of political interference especially after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, had decided to go ahead with the fraud and bribery prosecution of SNC Lavalin.

“We are treading on dangerous ground here – and I am going to issue my stern warning – because I cannot act in a manner and the prosecution cannot act in a manner that is not objective, that isn’t independent” she said. “This is about the integrity of the government…. this is going to look like political interference by the Prime Minister.”

She also revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office had months earlier been given a copy of the detailed legal reasons as to why Ms. Roussel had rejected the idea of negotiating a deferred-prosecution agreement with SNC.

Wilson-Raybould said she recorded the conversation because she was at home and did not have a staff member to take notes.

The documents also show that former Principal Secretary Gerrald Butts tried to use an untrue story from the Mulroney years to persuade Wilson-Raybould to accept direction from the PMO.

Copies of text messages between the former Attorney General and chief of staff Jessica Prince detail how Butts claimed an untrue story from years ago as historical precedent for a prime minister to direct an attorney-general on a justice matter.

Butts was referring to the wrongful conviction case of David Milgaard, which was overturned following a decision by then-justice minister and attorney-general Kim Campbell to review it.

“Gerry told some story about how Mulroney met with Milgaard’s mom, walked into the [cabinet] room and told Kim Campbell she had to fix it. She gave him all these [attorney-general] reasons why she couldn’t interfere but then she ultimately did what Mulroney wanted,” Prince told. Wilson-Raybould in text messages. “By Gerry’s telling, it was because Mulroney told her that she had to find a solution.”

Wilson-Raybould checked out the story. She met with Kim Campbell to verify the story but Campbell said the story was a fabrication.

“She categorically denied the characterization not only of her as the attorney-general but of her former boss, Prime Minister Mulroney,” Wilson-Raybould told the justice committee in her submission Friday.

Campbell told Wilson-Raybould that Mulroney “was much too good a lawyer to intervene improperly in the matter” and “he never breathed a word about the Milgaard case to his attorney-general, nor did anyone in his office ever attempt to influence her handling of the case.”

Wilson-Raybould also revealed more about the pressure she has said her office faced from Ben Chin, a senior aide to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

She recounted how Chin had warned her chief of staff, Prince about raising complaints regarding him with ministers. This came after Wilson-Raybould had expressed concern to Finance Minister Bill Morneau about how Chin and Elder Marques, a PMO aide, were repeatedly pressing her office to shelve the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

Chin did not like this, she recalled.

“Your boss spoke to Bill [Morneau] yesterday and said that me and Elder were mucking around on this file,” Chin told Prince.

“Be careful when using my name, Jess,” he told her.

While the Liberal members of the Justice committee blocked Wilson-Raybould from testifying further, she released documents to the public and the committee today because, in her initial testimony, the committee had invited her to submit further information to supplement her testimony.