The key players named in Wilson-Raybould’s bombshell testimony on SNC-Lavalin affair
In roughly four hours of stunning televised testimony, Jody Wilson-Raybould detailed how she experienced “a consistent and sustained” effort by many people within Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to politically interfere in criminal charges against Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
The former justice minister and attorney-general said she faced pressure to intervene in the prosecution against SNC-Lavalin over fraud and bribery charges, which involved about 10 phone calls and 10 meetings that she called inappropriate between September and December 2018.
WATCH: Wilson-Raybould testified on SNC-Lavalin
“I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with SNC-Lavalin,” Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee.
She said the events involved 11 people — excluding herself and political staff — from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, and the Office of the Minister of Finance.
“Within these conversations, there were expressed statements regarding the necessity for interference in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential for consequences and veiled threats if a DPA [deferred prosecution agreement] was not made available to SNC,” she said.
Here are the key people Wilson-Raybould mentioned in her testimony on the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada
WATCH ABOVE: Trudeau addresses SNC-Lavalin scandal
Wilson-Raybould testified that during a one-on-one meeting with Trudeau on Sept. 17, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick was present and while the meeting wasn’t about SNC-Lavalin, the deferred prosecution issue was raised “immediately.”
She said that Wernick warned of an upcoming board meeting with SNC-Lavalin stockholders and said “they will likely be moving to London” if the issue is not resolved and an election was approaching. SNC-Lavalin employs roughly 50,000 people around the world and over 8,500 in Quebec.
“At that point, the prime minister jumped in, stressing that there is an election in Quebec and that, ‘I am an MP in Quebec, the member for Papineau,” Wilson-Raybould said.
She recalled being taken aback by the response and asked the prime minister, “Are you politically interfering with my role, my decision as the attorney general?”
“The prime minister said, no, no, no, we just need to find a solution,” she testified.
Trudeau told reporters Wednesday night that he completely disagreed with her characterization of the events and that the final decision was “the attorney general’s alone.”
“I strongly maintain, as I have from the beginning, that I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally,” he told reporters at an event for the new Liberal MP from the riding of Outremont. “And therefore I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general about these events.”
Michael Wernick — Clerk of the Privy Council
WATCH ABOVE: Top public servant defends government’s handling of SNC case
Wernick is the country’s top civil servant and also serves as a deputy minister to the prime minister.
Wilson-Raybould said the efforts to interfere “culminated” in Dec. 19, 2018, with a final phone call from Wernick, who stated that Trudeau “wants to be able to say that he has tried everything he can within the legitimate toolbox.”
“I told the clerk that I was 100 per cent confident that I was doing nothing inappropriate. I, again, reiterated I am confident in where I am at on my views on SNC and the DPA have not changed — this is a constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence,” the former attorney general said.
“I warned the clerk that we were treading on dangerous ground here — and I issued a stern warning because as the AG, I cannot act in a manner and the prosecution cannot act in a manner that is not objective, that isn’t independent.”
Wernick did not respond to a request for comment following Wilson-Raybould’s testimony. He told the committee last week that no inappropriate pressure applied to the former attorney general.
“I conveyed to her that a lot of her colleagues and the prime minister were quite anxious about what they were hearing and reading in the business press about the future of the company, the options that were being openly discussed in the business press about the company moving or closing,” he said last week. “I can tell you, with complete assurance, that my view of those conversations is that they were within the boundaries of what’s lawful and appropriate.”
Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques — Senior Trudeau advisers
Marques and Bouchard are senior advisers in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Wilson-Raybould said on Sept. 16 that Marques and Bouchard had a phone call her with her chief of staff, Jessica Prince, as they wanted to “discuss SNC.”
“They said that they understand that the individual Crown prosecutor wants to negotiate an agreement, but the director does not. They said that they understand that there are limits on what can be done, and that they can’t direct, but that they hear that our deputy minister (of justice) thinks we can get the PPSC to say ‘we think we should get some outside advice on this,'” she testified.
Wilson-Raybould said her chief of staff stressed the importance of “prosecutorial independence and potential concerns about interference.”
“Mathieu said that if — six months from the election — SNC announces they are moving their headquarters out of Canada, that is bad. He said, ‘We can have the best policy in the world, but we need to be re-elected,’” Wilson-Raybould testified.
Mathieu and Bouchard declined to respond to questions from Global News. A spokesperson for Trudeau referred us back to comments made by the prime minister.
Ben Chin — chief of staff to Finance Minister Bill Morneau
Ben Chin previously worked as former BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark’s communications director before he was hired as chief of staff for Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
Wilson-Raybould testified there were several instances when Chin reached out to her office to arrange discussions about SNC-Lavalin.
WATCH: Morneau won’t say if there was pressure put on Wilson-Raybould
“On Sept. 6, one of the first communications about a DPA was received from outside our department,” she said. “Ben Chin, Minister Morneau’s chief of staff, emailed my chief of staff and they arranged to talk. He wanted to talk about SNC and what we could do, if anything, to address this.”
Global News reached out to Chin for comment. Morneau’s press secretary, Pierre-Olivier Herbert responded on Chin’s behalf stating that “at no time did Minister Morneau nor members of his office pressure the former minister of justice and attorney general into making any decision regarding the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.”
Gerald Butts — Trudeau’s former principal secretary
A top adviser and long-time friend of the prime minister, Gerald Butts served as a principal secretary to Trudeau from November 2015 until he abruptly resigned Feb. 18.
Wilson-Raybould said she met with Butts on Dec. 5, 2018, and alleges that Butts sought a solution to the “SNC stuff” and that on Dec. 18, her chief of staff was summoned to a meeting with Butts and Katie Telford.
Wilson-Raybould quoted Butts as telling her chief of staff “there is no solution here that doesn’t involve some interference.”
Butts’ denied the allegations in a resignation letter that he pressured Wilson-Raybould into considering a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin.
“I categorically deny the accusation that I or anyone else in his office pressured Ms. Wilson-Raybould,” he said. “We honoured the unique role of the Attorney General. At all times, I and those around me acted with integrity and a singular focus on the best interests of all Canadians.”
On Thursday, Butts announced that he has asked to speak before the House of Commons justice committee.
Katie Telford — Trudeau’s Chief of Staff
Katie Telford has been Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff since the Liberals won the election in 2015.
Wilson-Raybould said during her testimony that Telford was present at the Dec. 18 meeting with Butts and Prince.
“They wanted to know where I am in terms of finding a solution,” Wilson-Raybould testified. “They told (Prince) that they felt like the issue was getting worse and that I was not doing anything. They referenced a possible call with the PM and the Clerk the next day.”
Nathalie Drouin — federal deputy minister of justice
Nathalie Drouin is the federal deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general.
Wilson-Raybould said that Drouin “was working on something” related to the requests made by the PMO in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.
“Deputy attorney general – Nathalie Drouin – was working on something (they had spoken to her about the issue), and that my staff [Emma Carver and Gregoire Webber] were drafting a memo as well on the role of the AG vis à vis the PPSC,” she testified.
Frank Iacobucci — Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice
Iacobucci was retained as an outside lawyer by SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould said she was told by Ben Chin that SNC-Lavalin was prepared to agree to negotiated terms regarding the case and that Wernick SNC was in negotiations with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“He said that he understands that SNC is going back and forth with the DPP, and that they want more information,” she testified. “He said that “Iacobucci is not a shrinking violet.”
Iacobucci did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Global News.
The seasoned judge has also been chosen by the Trudeau government to lead renewed Indigenous consultations efforts on the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
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