‘No decision is ever final’: Attorney General David Lametti as SNC-Lavalin affair continues
Attorney General David Lametti says decisions made by those in his role can always be changed.
In an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Lametti also suggested the description by his predecessor, Jody Wilson-Raybould, of attempted political interference to pressure her into helping SNC-Lavalin escape a criminal trial is not entirely accurate.
“Interference is perhaps the wrong word in that it implies something illegal is going on,” he said.
Lametti, who became attorney general after Wilson-Raybould was removed from the post six weeks ago, acknowledged in the same interview he had not known when he took over the role and got briefed on the matters facing him that she had already made the decision not to offer a remediation agreement.
Such a deal would have allowed SNC-Lavalin to admit wrongdoing and pay a fine, but avoid the ban on bidding for government contracts that comes with a conviction for the corruption and fraud charges it currently faces.
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould reads transcript of remarkable conversation with her chief of staff
When asked about the testimony from Wilson-Raybould last week, in which she described the Quebec election and the federal election being raised as issues she was pressured to consider when officials pushed her to change her mind, Lametti reiterated past remarks that the attorney general does not operate alone but needs to take other factors into account when making decisions.
As part of that, he said their decisions can always be changed if new information appears.
“You do have an ongoing obligation as attorney general in terms of your relationship to prosecutions and the prosecution service to be open to new facts,” he said. “I can’t speak to the actual facts [of the SNC-Lavalin affair] but I know that in principle, an attorney general has to remain open so, in that sense, no decision is ever final.”
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould describes ‘consistent, sustained effort’ to interfere in SNC-Lavalin case
Wilson-Raybould outlined repeated instances in her testimony of what she described as attempts to interfere in her decision not to intervene in the case.
But she told members of the House of Commons justice committee that despite making her concerns clear, the pressure did not stop.
Instead, she said, it escalated.
She described one such case as happening on Oct. 26, 2018, after SNC-Lavalin had filed a judicial appeal of the decision not to offer it a deal.
Mathieu Bouchard, a senior adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office, told Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff, Jessica Prince, that “if six months from the election, SNC announces that they’re moving their headquarters out of Canada, that is bad.”
Wilson-Raybould said Bouchard continued, telling Prince, “We can have the best policy in the world but we need to get re-elected.”
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould describes moment conversations with PM on SNC-Lavalin became ‘inappropriate’
On Dec. 18, Prince was summoned to a meeting with Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s then-principal adviser, and Katie Telford, his chief of staff.
Wilson-Raybould read out text exchanges she had with Prince following the meeting describing what happened in it.
“Gerry said, ‘Jess, there is no solution here that does not involve some interference,'” Wilson-Raybould quoted Prince as telling her, and noted similar remarks were described by Prince as coming from Telford.
“We don’t want to debate legalities anymore,” Wilson-Raybould said Telford told Prince.
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould: PMO told me Trudeau would get a DPA ‘one way or another’
The next day, comments from Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick to Wilson-Raybould during their final meeting on the matter appeared to suggest the former attorney general’s decision not to intervene didn’t matter.
“I think he is going to find a way to get it done, one way or another,” Wilson-Raybould quoted Wernick as telling her of Trudeau.
“He’s in that kind of mood and I wanted you to be aware of it.”
Trudeau has told reporters the accusations of attempted political interference from Wilson-Raybould come down to a “disagreement in perspectives.”
Butts and Wernick are among three witnesses set to testify before the justice committee on Wednesday.
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