Staff | Eli Ridder
Gerald Butts told the House of Commons justice committee on Wednesday that there was no intention to pressure the former attorney general to change her mind on the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, and official contacts with her were only meant to ensure she had full facts on the impact of a potential conviction.
Butts, a close friend and ex-advisor of the prime minister started by saying he did not want to fight with or discredit the ex-minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, only to give a “different version of events” backed up by his notes, text messages and talks with others.
“I am firmly convinced thatt nothing happened here beyond the normal operations of government,” Butts told the Commons Committee on Justice and Human Rights, made up of representatives from the main parties.
Liberals, New Democrats and Conservative parliamentarians, along with those representing unofficial parties, asked Butts to detail his side of the story in the SNC-Lavalin affair that has rocked Ottawa for the last five weeks.
Butts testified that trained legal staff worked on the SNC-Lavalin file to ensure that no line was crossed when the Prime Minister’s Office engaged with Wilson-Raybould when she was the attorney general. The PMO wanted to underscore the jobs at stake.
“It was not about second guessing the decision. It was about ensuring that the attorney general was making her decision with the absolute best evidence possible,” Butts said, explaining that he waned to ensure “every due consideration” was given in response to a question from Tory Lisa Raitt.
The conversations continued because Wilson-Raybould never informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in writing of her decision, Butts testified, saying that it lead people to believe that new information could be revealed that would affect the DPA decision.
SNC-Lavalin was seeking a deferred prosecution agreement that allows companies to avoid major punishments to a crime for the interest of protecting jobs.
Wilson-Raybould previously accused the PMO and others of inappropriately pressuring her to use a DPA with the company to protect what Liberals cite as 9,000 jobs at risk if the company was fully prosecuted.
Butts said that the deferred prosecution agreement consideration would be “the first time the law was ever being used”.
When asked about his version of events being at odds with Wilson-Raybould’s previous testimony, Butts said that “we’re all people — when trust breaks down it’s easy to see things in a different light.”
Butts testified that trained legal staff worked on the SNC-Lavalin file to ensure that no line was crossed when the Prime Minister’s Office engaged with Wilson-Raybould when she was the attorney general.
The former advisor and close personal friend of Trudeau, who said he has not been in contact with the prime minister since resigning in February, said he takes responsibility for any breakdown in the relationship between Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould.
Image from social media.