Watch the full interview airing at 11 AM ET on the West Block on Sunday, March 3, 2019.
Attorney General David Lametti says he didn’t know that his predecessor, Jody Wilson-Raybould, had already made a decision not to cut SNC-Lavalin a deal to avoid criminal trial when he took over the post and began learning about the matter before him.
He was also mum on whether knowing that would keep him from reversing the decision.
“I had not,” Lametti when asked if he had known about the decision in an interview airing Sunday with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson.
“I was a Montreal MP, as I’ve said, so I was generally aware of the file but I didn’t have any specific knowledge — I mean, I had the knowledge that you and I both had, reading the newspapers and seeing what’s out on the media.”
WATCH: David Lametti, Canada’s new attorney general, says SNC-Lavalin could still get the special deal that Jody Wilson-Raybould refused to approve. As Mercedes Stephenson explains, Lametti says the legal possibility still exists.
Lametti was also asked whether it would have given him pause to know Wilson-Raybould had already said no.
“At that point, I didn’t know all the facts — at this point, I still don’t know all the facts — so it’s a hypothetical question that I can’t answer,” he said.
In the interview, Lametti addressed questions in the wake of explosive testimony from Wilson-Raybould before a House of Commons justice committee earlier this week. In that testimony, she described co-ordination within the Department of Justice prior to the shuffle in order to brief Lametti on the issue as soon as he was appointed so that the new attorney general could speak with the prime minister as soon as possible.
“The clerk tells the deputy that one of the first conversations that the new minister will be expected to have with the prime minister will be on SNC-Lavalin,” Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee when describing how efforts to get Lametti up to speed seemed to begin before she had even been officially removed from the post.
“In other words, that the new minister will need to prepare, be prepared to speak to the prime minister on this file. The deputy recounts this to my chief of staff, who tells me about the conversation,” Wilson-Raybould added.
WATCH: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s full statement to Commons justice committee
Wilson-Raybould was removed from the post of attorney general on Jan. 14, 2019.
She said she was notified of that decision on Jan. 7 and said at the time that she had told the prime minister and his then-principal secretary, Gerald Butts, she believed it to be because of her decision not to intervene to help cut SNC-Lavalin a deal to avoid criminal trial and potential conviction on corruption and fraud charges.
“They denied this to be the case,” she told the committee.
Butts is one of three witnesses set to testify before the same committee next week over allegations of attempted political interference.
Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick and Nathalie Drouin, the deputy attorney general, will also appear.
Wernick will likely face questions over the description of a Dec. 19, 2018, conversation he had with Wilson-Raybould, in which he allegedly told her that her decision not to intervene to offer a deal to SNC-Lavalin might not matter.
WATCH: Wilson-Raybould describes moment she learned she was losing AG job
“I think he is going to find a way to get it done, one way or another,” Wilson-Raybould quoted Wernick as saying of the prime minister. “So he is in that kind of mood.”
Wernick and Trudeau have repeatedly denied that there was anything inappropriate about their talks with Wilson-Raybould on the matter.
SNC-Lavalin faces a 10-year ban from bidding on federal contracts if convicted and had threatened to move its headquarters out of Canada if the company didn’t get a deal.