Corruption scandal could bring down Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau


His comments come a week after former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould alleged Trudeau, Butts and others pressured her to help SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. settle corruption charges out of court.

Butts says staff in the Prime Minister's Office always respected the fact that, as attorney general, it was up to Wilson-Raybould alone to decide whether to order negotiation of a remediation agreement with the Montreal engineering giant; such an agreement would have forced the company to pay stiff penalties while avoiding a criminal conviction that could financially cripple it.

Trudeau has been on the defensive since the Globe and Mail newspaper reported February 7 that Trudeau's staff put pressure on ex-Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to try to avoid a criminal prosecution of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin over allegations of bribes for government contracts in Libya.

Some nervous Liberal parliamentarians say Trudeau needs to make changes to his inner circle, and complain that his office seems to have no plan to deal with the crisis.

He disputed the contention of Wilson-Raybould, Canada's first indigenous Attorney-General and justice minister, that she was moved to a new portfolio over her refusal to take action in the case.

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The firm, which employs 9,000 people in Canada, is based in the province of Quebec, where Trudeau's Liberals need to pick up seats to win a federal election set for October.

With opposition leaders clamouring for Trudeau to resign - supported by half of Canadians, according to one recent survey - the justice committee and the independent ethics commissioner have both opened investigations.

During his testimony, Butts repeatedly referred to text message exchanges between himself and Wilson-Raybould, emails, and his recollections of meetings, including a December 5 dinner at the Chateau Laurier.

Minister Wilson-Raybauld felt she was being shuffled out for "other reasons".

Butts said on Wednesday the SNC-Lavalin issue had nothing to do with the Cabinet shuffle, which he said was prompted by the political retirement of Treasury Board minister Scott Brison.

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Wilson-Raybould said that being attorney general and justice minister was her "dream job", Butts testified, and that she wanted to remain in that post.

Wilson-Raybould said during testimony last week that she had experienced a "consistent and sustained effort" by Liberal officials attempting to persuade her to enact a DPA.

He said he thinks that most ministers and Liberal lawmakers want to kick her out of the party and that Philpott does not agree with them. "I was deeply concerned by what the minister was saying".

Through his testimony, Butts framed the conflict between Wilson-Raybould and the Prime Minister's Office as a "breakdown in trust" precipitated by the January cabinet shuffle.

"Can you imagine, if when we were kids, and the coal mines closed ... the best explanation someone could give us is that they thought about it for 12 days?" said Butts, whose father is a retired coal-miner.

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