Ex-senior aide Gerald Butts defends Trudeau amid political crisis

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Reuters

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Former senior aide Gerald Butts says there was no inappropriate pressure in SNC-Lavalin case

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau did not inappropriately pressure a former justice minister to grant a legal favour to a firm facing a criminal trial, a former senior aide has said.

Gerald Butts said the prime minster simply wanted Jody Wilson-Raybould to seek outside legal advice on a matter that placed jobs at risk.

She claims there were attempts at political meddling in matter.

The controversy has become a major political crisis for Mr Trudeau.

Speaking on Wednesday before a House of Commons Justice Committee, Mr Butts said: “I am firmly convinced nothing happened beyond the normal operations of government”.

He quit as Mr Trudeau’s principal private secretary mid-February.

Former attorney general and justice minister Wilson-Raybould said last week that she faced attempts at interference and “veiled threats” from the prime minister and members of his inner circle over a corruption trial facing Quebec-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

She said she was subjected to repeated pressure to “find a solution” for the firm.

Mr Butts said that it was always understood that any final decision on whether to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement was for the attorney general alone to make.

That agreement would have allowed the firm to avoid a criminal trial and instead agree to alternative terms or conditions, like penalties or enhanced compliance measures.

Mr Butts said the fact that a trial could put thousands of jobs at made matter a “very real public policy problem” for the government.

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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