February 18, 2019 3:01 pm
Updated: February 19, 2019 12:42 am

Justin Trudeau’s top adviser Gerald Butts resigns amid SNC-Lavalin affair

WATCH: PM's principal secretary resigns amid SNC allegations

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Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary and senior political advisor, has resigned amid allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office tried to prevent the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Butts denied accusations that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the Montreal engineering giant avoid prosecution on corruption and bribery charges related to contracts in Libya.

“Any accusation that I or the staff put pressure on the Attorney General is simply not true, Canadians are rightly proud of their public institutions,” the statement continued.

Butts’ resignation comes just days after the prime minister accepted the resignation of Wilson-Raybould as Veteran’s Affairs Minister. The Tories, NDP and other cabinet ministers have called on Trudeau to waive solicitor-client privilege so she can speak about the case.

WATCH: The Prime Minister’s Office allegedly pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to drop the fraud and corruption charges against the Quebec company

Butts adds in the statement that the allegations distract from the “vital work” Trudeau and the PMO are doing.

He states that it’s his responsibility to defend his own reputation and that it’s in the best interests of the government for him to step away.

Butts has acknowledged that Wilson-Raybould briefly raised the SNC-Lavalin case during a conversation with him in December; he says he advised her to speak with the clerk of the Privy Council.

WATCH: “They understood very clearly I would not interfere:” Bains on SNC-Lavalin

She’s stated that she’s retained her own legal counsel to advise her on which aspects of the case she can discuss publicly.

Director of Communications for Trudeau, Kate Purchase, also tweeted out Butts’ statement, and commented on his belief in public service and devotion to the country.

“We are lucky to have had him serve it in this capacity for so long,” she wrote.

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer said Butts’ resignation was the latest indication of a “cover up” engineered by Trudeau.

“The sudden resignation of Justin Trudeau’s closest political advisor is the clearest indication yet that there is much more to the SNC-Lavalin Affair than the prime minister has so far admitted,” Scheer said in a statement.

WATCH: Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, has resigned Monday amid SNC-Lavalin controversy


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“It is now more important than ever before that Mr. Trudeau waive solicitor-client privilege so Jody Wilson-Raybould can tell her side of the story to Canadians.”

He added, “The events of the last several days and the ensuing chaos that has engulfed the government are signs that the Prime Minister is desperate to keep the truth hidden.”

READ MORE: Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry into SNC-Lavalin controversy

The departure of Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister and the embodiment of Trudeau’s commitment to reconciliation with First Nations, was a big blow to the Liberals. But Butts’ exit is arguably an even bigger one.

He has been close friends with Trudeau since their student days at McGill University in Montreal. He was instrumental in organizing Trudeau’s successful leadership bid in 2013 and was one of two key architects – along with Katie Telford, now Trudeau’s chief of staff – of the Liberals’ stunning come-from-behind election victory in 2015.

Since 2015, Butts has been Trudeau’s closest and most trusted adviser. Opposition critics have painted Butts as a Svengali-like puppet master and even some Liberal backbenchers have privately resented the power and influence he wielded.

WATCH: Scheer says truth is the best defence on the SNC-Lavalin affair

Butts is one of several Trudeau aides the opposition parties had wanted to call before the House of Commons justice committee to testify on what happened in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Both Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer and New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh have also called for Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, as well as an inquiry into the PMO’s involvement in the SNC-Lavalin case.

An internal probe has already been launched.

WATCH: Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, has resigned Monday amid SNC-Lavalin controversy

— With files from the Canadian Press, Amanda Connolly and Rahul Kalvapalle

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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