Justin Trudeau’s top advisor Gerald Butts resigns over claims government interfered in criminal case

The top political adviser to Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, resigned on Monday, deepening a political crisis over allegations that the government tried to interfere in a criminal court case.

In a statement announcing his departure, Gerald Butts, who has been a close friend of Mr Trudeau’s since their university days, linked his leaving to the allegations that he, the prime minister and others improperly pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould, when she was the justice minister and attorney general, to quash the criminal prosecution of a major Canadian engineering and construction company.

Mr Butts repeatedly denied in his resignation letter that any such action took place.

“Any accusation that I or the staff put pressure on the attorney general is simply not true,” Mr Butts wrote. “But the fact is that this accusation exists. It cannot and should not take one moment away from the vital work the prime minister and his office is doing for all Canadians.

He added: “It is in the best interests of the office and its important work for me to step away."

His resignation came a week after Ms Wilson-Raybould resigned from the Trudeau Cabinet. In January, she had been moved from the post of justice minister to minister of veteran’s affairs, a switch widely seen as a demotion.

Rather than calming the growing political storm around Mr Trudeau, Mr Butts’ resignation only seemed to intensify it.

“It opens up another front,” said Patrick Gossage, who was press secretary to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the former prime minister and Justin Trudeau’s father. “It raises more questions than it answers. Did he really have nothing to do with making Jody Wilson-Raybould feel she wasn’t wanted? I don’t think it solves anything.”

Mr Butts’ absence will leave a significant void in Mr Trudeau’s leadership and campaign team just eight months before an election. The son of a coal miner from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Mr Butts met Mr Trudeau at the debating club at McGill University in Montreal, and the two have remained friends ever since.

After working as a senior aide in a Liberal provincial government in Ontario, Mr Butts was among a small group who brought Mr Trudeau, a teacher, into politics and taught him its craft. Mr Butts was a key player in the successful election campaign in 2015 that defied expectations by raising the Liberals from third place in polls to victory, making Mr Trudeau prime minister.

Since then, Mr Butts has acted as Mr Trudeau’s principal secretary and was widely viewed as the most powerful player within the prime minister’s office. He was known for aggressively challenging critics of the government on

Mr Gossage said the loss of Mr Butts’ guidance is a significant blow for Mr Trudeau and the Liberal Party.

“The last year before an election, you don’t leave your boss behind,” Mr Gossage said.

The allegations of government interference in the criminal case first surfaced in a Globe and Mail article that cited anonymous sources. According to the newspaper, the prime minister and his staff pushed Ms Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal for the company, SNC-Lavalin. A Montreal-based engineering and construction firm, SNC-Lavalin was accused of paying multimillion bribes to secure contracts in

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