‘Why would I resign?’: Wilson-Raybould not backing down on SNC-Lavalin scandal
Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould is not backing down, hinting that if Liberal caucus members want her gone, they will have to do it themselves.
Wilson-Raybould spoke briefly with Global News on her way into question period on Monday, where the Opposition hammered the government over the allegations of attempted political interference at the heart of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which has engulfed it for more than two months.
Wilson-Raybould’s Liberal caucus colleagues are gearing up for an expected debate this week on casting her out of their midst for sounding alarm bells about what she called “inappropriate” pressure allegedly applied by top government officials to get her to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin court case and cut the company a deal to avoid trial.
The former attorney general offered a short and simple response when asked if she would step down in light of those accusations from her colleagues.
“Why would I resign?” she said.
“I’m just doing the best job I can.”
WATCH: Will the Liberals kick Jody Wilson-Raybould out of caucus over recording?
SNC-Lavalin faces corruption and fraud charges for allegedly bribing Libyan officials to get contracts.
If convicted, the Montreal firm could face a decade-long ban on bidding for lucrative government contracts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially called a Globe and Mail report saying that officials were pressuring Wilson-Raybould “false” but later changed his tune to insist there was nothing wrong with officials raising the issue of potential job losses at the firm if the case were prosecuted with her.
Wilson-Raybould has said she believes the reason she was removed from the attorney general role in a January 2019 shuffle was because she refused to intervene in the decision of the director of public prosecutions not to offer the company a brand-new tool that would let it avoid a criminal trial.
That tool, known as a remediation agreement, was created by the Liberals last year after heavy lobbying from SNC-Lavalin.
WATCH: Secret recording of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s phone call with Michael Wernick on SNC-Lavalin released
Wilson-Raybould testified before the House of Commons justice committee last month that she expressed concerns, saying the pressure on her was inappropriate and that by refusing she was trying to protect the government from the perception of political interference that would emerge if it intervened in the court case.
After hearing from witnesses who disputed her description of events, the Liberal-dominated committee shut down its limited probe into the matter.
In response, Wilson-Raybould tabled a submission of texts, emails and a written statement — all released publicly on Friday — that expanded on the “consistent and sustained effort” to apply pressure that she had previously testified she experienced.
Wilson-Raybould also tabled a secretly recorded phone call with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick in which she repeatedly told him their conversation — and others with top government officials on the matter — were not appropriate and were “treading on dangerous grounds.”
That recording corroborated key details of her previous testimony, which had corroborated the original media report.
She also raised questions about whether her replacement, Attorney General David Lametti, has decided to do what she would not.
While Wilson-Raybould has said she is barred from discussing what led her to resign less than one month after accepting the role of minister of veterans affairs, which was widely viewed as a demotion given its significantly lower profile, she hinted at what may have been on her mind when she decided to accept.
“I did make another decision at this time — that I would immediately resign if the new attorney general decided to issue a directive in the SNC-Lavalin matter, as this would confirm my suspicions as to the reason for the shuffle for me in particular,” she wrote.
WATCH: Wilson-Raybould reads transcript of remarkable conversation with her chief of staff
Although the government waived solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality to let her testify on what had happened while she was in the post of attorney general, that waiver did not cover any discussions she was privy to around the cabinet table after she was shuffled from that role.
However, Wilson-Raybould would theoretically have been part of any talks reconsidering whether to offer SNC-Lavalin a deal if they came up at cabinet in the month after her shuffle but prior to her resignation.
Her explanation of what circumstances would have led her to resign is the closest she has come to directly explaining her decision.
Shortly after her resignation, former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott also quit cabinet, saying she had “lost confidence” in Trudeau’s handling of the allegations. As a result of his own stunning testimony at the justice committee, which sparked accusations of extreme partisanship, Wernick also announced that he would retire early from his role.
Gerald Butts, former principal secretary and right-hand man to Trudeau, also resigned shortly after Wilson-Raybould left cabinet, though he insisted neither he nor anyone else in the government had done anything inappropriate.
Other central figures named by Wilson-Raybould as pressuring her inappropriately in the scandal have since reportedly retained legal counsel.
—With files from Global’s Bryan Mullan
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