Canada’s former attorney general on Friday made public a conversation she secretly recorded that she took as a veiled threat that she’d lose her job if she didn’t intervene to avoid criminal prosecution of a Canadian company.
The recording shows Trudeau aide Michael Wernick telling the Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould that Trudeau “is determined, quite firm,” in finding a way to avoid a prosecution that could put 9,000 jobs at risk.
It also shows Wilson-Raybould, who was also attorney general, saying she regards the pressure as “inappropriate.”
The furor over the case has threatened Trudeau’s chances in the fall election and led to the resignation of two Cabinet ministers as well as Trudeau’s top aide Gerry Butts and the early retirement of Wernick.
In the tape released via a Parliament justice committee, Wernick is heard saying it’s is not a good for Wilson-Raybould to be at “loggerheads” with the prime minister, who was urging a legal option known as deferred prosecution under which the company would pay a fine but avoid a possible criminal conviction.
“I think he is going to find a way to get it done one way or another. He’s in that kind of mood. I wanted you to be aware of that,” Wernick is heard saying.
He also says Trudeau feels the government has to do everything it can to save 9,000 jobs at a signature Canadian firm. Conviction would bar the company from government contracts.
Wilson-Raybould is heard saying the conversation is “entirely inappropriate and it is political interference.”
Wernick is heard saying Trudeau is thinking about bringing in a former chief justice to consult with her on the issue. He also says it’s not interference.
Wilson-Raybould was demoted from her role as attorney general and justice minister in January as part of a Cabinet shuffle by Trudeau. She has testified that she believes she lost the justice job because she did not give in to “sustained” pressure to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould said in a written submission that she took the “extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step” of secretly recording a phone call with the country’s top public servant in December because she feared the conversation would cross ethical lines and she wanted an exact account.
“This is something that I have never done before this phone call and have not done since,” she wrote.