Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould is defending the secret recording of Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick that appears to have tipped the scales in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to eject her from caucus.
On Tuesday night, Trudeau said the secret recording of the phone call, which Wilson-Raybould had described as one in which Wernick made “veiled threats” against her, was “unconscionable” and that the trust between caucus and her had been broken.
He also removed former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott over her resignation from cabinet and for saying she had “lost confidence” in Trudeau’s handling of the allegations of attempted political interference made by Wilson-Raybould in four explosive hours of testimony before the House of Commons justice committee last month.
Wilson-Raybould hit back at that characterization on Wednesday.
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“Talking about unconscionable, it’s unconscionable to tread over the independence of the prosecutor,” she said. “It is unconscionable not to uphold the rule of law, and I have always maintained that stance. I think it is very alarming that people are focusing on the actual recording of the tape as opposed to the contents of the tape. The contents of the tape, in my view and the view of many people that have reached out, speak for [themselves].”
She also stressed that she has explained why she made the decision to record that call, which was the culmination of four months of requests from top political staffers as well as Trudeau for her to reconsider her decision not to intervene in the criminal case of SNC-Lavalin.
“I said in any other circumstance it would be inappropriate. I was protecting myself. I knew something very dangerous and wrong was going to happen,” Wilson-Raybould said.
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Trudeau has repeatedly refused to apologize for what Wilson-Raybould has described as a “consistent and sustained effort” between September and December 2018 by himself and his most senior staff to pressure her into agreeing to intervene in the criminal trial of SNC-Lavalin.
According to testimony given by her before the justice committee, she was repeatedly and “inappropriately” pressured to issue a directive overruling the decision of the director of public prosecutions not to offer an untested new legal tool to the Montreal engineering firm.
Known as a deferred prosecution or remediation agreement, such a deal would see the company admit wrongdoing and pay a fine.
In comparison, a criminal conviction on the corruption and fraud charges facing it now could lead to a decade-long ban on bidding for government contracts.
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould says ‘trust is a two-way street’ regarding taping of conversation with Wernick
Trudeau initially denied the report from the Globe and Mail that there was pressure applied, but then changed his tune.
Since then, he has argued that all discussions on the matter were focused on making sure the government did everything possible to save jobs at the company, yet he has also refused to provide any evidence that those jobs were actually at risk.
After the justice committee refused to allow Wilson-Raybould to appear a second time to respond to challenges made to her testimony by several witnesses who came after her, she submitted a package containing texts, emails and an audio recording that she said corroborated her description of events.
That submission was released on Friday.
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The recording was of a phone call on Dec. 19, 2018, with clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick in which Wilson-Raybould has previously said he made “veiled threats” against her if she did not change her mind and agree to interfere in the court case.
While the recording and messages corroborated key details of her testimony, her Liberal colleagues quickly seized on the fact she had recorded the call.
Over just a couple of days, prominent Liberals went on the attack.
On Tuesday night, Trudeau called the recording “unconscionable” as he announced he was kicking both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott out of caucus.
Hours later, Trudeau was shunned by dozens of young women who were delegates in the Daughters of the Vote program, which brings young women to Parliament Hill to provide them with insight on the challenges of a life in politics.
As he addressed the ejection of the two women from his caucus, delegates sitting in the House of Commons rose and turned their backs to him.
Others had publicly condemned his decision prior to his speech.
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