Corruption scandal could bring down Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses his caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday Nov. 5 2015. iPolitics  Matthew Usherwood

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses his caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday Nov. 5 2015. iPolitics Matthew Usherwood

A former key aide of Justin Trudeau, who is at the centre of a major political crisis, has denied he had pressured the then justice minister to allow a major firm to avoid a corruption trial previous year.

"A second member of Trudeau's Cabinet resigned on Monday, saying she had lost confidence in how the government had dealt with allegations that officials inappropriately pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould a year ago to try to help construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials", the outlet reported.

Butts quit as Trudeau's principal private secretary on February 18.

"I am firmly convinced that nothing happened here beyond the normal operations of government", Butts told the Commons justice committee.

"I should have realized that", Mr. Butts said in his testimony.

He denied he said there was "no solution here that does not involve some interference", in part because the word "solution" is not one he would have used in this context.

The "national economic interests" measure is quite new to the Criminal Code and was introduced by Trudeau's own government. Which is to say that he returned the whole scandal to exactly the place the Liberals want it - a political soap opera of "he said, she said", where only subjective perspectives are known and the facts remain forever hidden.

Wilson-Raybould told the committee that on September 16, 2018, she made her final decision that she would not overrule the director of public prosecutions on SNC and "was not going to change her mind".

Carr, who is minister of worldwide trade diversification, has stayed loyal to Trudeau after Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould quit cabinet over the prime minister's handling of the SNC-Lavalin case.

Last week Wilson-Raybould outlined for the justice committee 11 meetings and phone calls with 11 different political staff in the Prime Minister's Office, the finance minister's office and the Privy Council Office, which she said were not illegal but overstepped what was appropriate.

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"It was about ensuring that the attorney general was making her decision with the absolute best evidence possible", Butts said during his testimony Wednesday.

Speaking between testimony by Trudeau's close adviser Gerald Butts and Michael Wernick, the head of the public service, Carr said the testimony will allow Canadians to chose whether the Liberals crossed a line when the issue of Quebec jobs was raised with Wilson-Raybould.

Philpott's resignation means Trudeau must appoint a new president to the Treasury Board, which oversees government spending.

Jody Wilson-Raybould told a shocking story in her appearance at the federal justice committee last week.

"I think that 20 points of contact over four months is not a lot of contact", he said. Until he does that, there will continue to be a shadow over this whole thing regardless of what Butts and others might say.

Some nervous Liberal lawmakers complain Trudeau's office has taken too long to respond to a scandal that deepened last week when former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she and her staff had been subjected to persistent pressure. However, should they persist in saying they have no confidence in Trudeau's government, the source said Liberal MPs would likely demand they be kicked out of caucus and Trudeau would refuse to allow them to run for the party again. Instead, she was moved to the Veterans Affairs post.

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.

At the time, Wilson-Raybould could have legally instructed the public prosecutor to negotiate a remediation agreement - a legal tool in corporate corruption cases, somewhat akin to a plea bargain.

While carefully avoiding any verbal attacks on Wilson-Raybould, he denied the tone and substance of numerous conversations she had related.

The prime minister has been struggling to contain the political crisis over the matter that has cost him two top ministers, including Ms Wilson-Raybould, in the past few weeks.

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