The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the clerk of the Privy Council Office (PCO) never briefed Justin Trudeau on his talk with ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, that was captured on a recording released on Friday.
In a statement to Global News, the PMO also said it was “unaware of the full contents of this recording before today.”
WATCH: Secret recording of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s phone call with Michael Wernick on SNC-Lavalin released
The statement emerged amid the release of a recording in which Wilson-Raybould could be heard telling Michael Wernick, the outgoing clerk of the PCO, that she was concerned about the appearance of political interference if she were to override the director of public prosecutions and offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).
In their phone conversation, which took place in December 2018, Wilson-Raybould told Wernick that “this conversation, previous conversations I’ve had with the PM and people around him are entirely inappropriate. It is political interference.”
The recording backs up most of Wilson-Raybould’s testimony before the parliamentary justice committee, in which she alleged that Wernick made “veiled threats” against her with regard to a prosecution deal for the Quebec-based engineering company.
During the conversation, Wernick could be heard telling Wilson-Raybould that the prime minister was in a “mood” about this matter and that, “I think the way he sees it and the advice he’s getting is you still have things you can do that are entirely lawful.”
Wernick also said, “he’s in a pretty firm frame of mind about this so I’m a bit worried.”
“A bit worried about what?” Wilson-Raybould responded.
“It’s not a good idea for the PM and his attorney general to be at loggerheads,” Wernick said. He added that the prime minister “doesn’t have the power to do what he wants, all the tools are in your hands.
Wernick has denied making any threats to her.
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In the statement, the PMO said the prime minister “should have spoken directly with the former justice minister and attorney general about this matter — and wishes that she had come to him.”
The PMO went on to say that there was “clearly an erosion of trust over the past few months between PMO, the clerk of the Privy Council, and the former justice minister and attorney general.”
“The prime minister took responsibility for the situation and announced several next steps, including external expert opinions on a number of things as they relate to the set of issues raised over the past few weeks,” the statement said.
The PMO concluded by saying, “all the facts are on the table now, and everyone involved has shared their perspective, including the prime minister. We are focused on moving forward as a team on the issues that matter to Canadians and governing in the best interests of the country.”
The tape came as part of a submission package in which Wilson-Raybould also relayed concern that her successor, now-Justice Minister David Lametti, could offer SNC-Lavalin the deal that she refused to help them secure.
Wilson-Raybould acknowledged that it was wrong to record her conversation with Wernick, but she said she did that because she was worried that the conversation would be inappropriate — and that it could follow the pattern of the exchanges she had with others in parliament.
— With files from Amanda Connolly