Justin Trudeau CRISIS: Top aide scrambles to stem backlash as pressure on PM mounts

Prime Minister Trudeau is under intense pressure to explain allegations his aides pressured then justice secretary Jody Wilson-Raybould to ensure construction giant SNC-Lavalin would not face a corruption and bribery trial last year. Since the claims surfaced two weeks ago, Mr Trudeau’s government has struggled to make clear whether Ms Wilson-Raybould was improperly pressured by staff in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) into using a deferred prosecution agreement to grant the Montreal company a reprieve. In a remarkable appearance before the Canadian House of Commons justice committee yesterday, Canada’s clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick said Ms Wilson-Raybould was never under any undue pressure to use the legal loophole.

Mr Wernick told lawmakers: “It is my conclusion and my assertion, based on all the information I have, that there was no inappropriate pressure on the minister of justice in this matter.”

However Ms Wilson-Raybould, who on Monday sensationally quit as veterans minister just hours after Mr Trudeau insisted her continued presence in the role proved nothing untoward had happened, has threatened to drop a bombshell which could spell disaster for the Canadian administration.

Ms Wilson-Raybould will speak before the justice committee next week and is currently being counselled by her legal team on exactly how much she can reveal about SNC-Lavalin.

In yesterday’s committee appearance, Mr Wernick admitted Ms Wilson-Raybould may have felt pressure to “get it right” on SNC-Lavalin and would likely “express concern” about three meetings.

The first would be a September 17 meeting she had with Mr Trudeau while the second “is a conversation between the PMO’s staff and her former chief of staff when she was minister of justice on December 18.”

Mr Wernick added: “The third is a conversation I had with her in the afternoon of December 19.”

The chief public servant said all three meetings were about SNC-Lavalin and in his discussion he explained the “context” and “consequences” a criminal prosecution would have on the Quebec company.

He said: “How Ms Wilson-Raybould interprets and perceives those conversations she can tell you next week.”

Mr Werner added: “I can tell you my view very firmly is they were entirely appropriate, lawful, legal.”

In an unorthodox move earlier this week, Ms Wilson-Raybould addressed the Canadian cabinet after she had quit as a minister to explain why she resigned.

Canada’s Globe and Mail reported Ms Wilson-Raybould told the three-hour meeting she had come under improper pressure.

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