So, Jody Wilson-Raybould opened her remarks, a few hours ago, (and her testimony is still ongoing as I post this) by saying that she endured a sustained series of attempts to interfere with prosecutorial discretion. The pressure included communications from the office of Finance Minister Bill Morneau which explained to her that SNC-Lavalin might close its offices in Québec and suggesting that this would have electoral consequences. Ms Wilson-Raybould says that she told the prime minister, directly, that she chose not to overrule the prosecutor. She says that she told Finance Minister Morneau, directly, that his office had to stop communicating with her office about the economic impact of a prosecution on SNC-Lavalin, but it did not stop. She says she explained the constitutional issues surrounding her role as Attorney General to the PMO but they kept the pressure on her.
She was very clear that the pressure put upon her was inappropriate. She expressed some personal concern that her replacement as Attorney General might not be as firm as she was on the rules about prosecutorial discretion.
She made the very valid point that it is always appropriate for cabinet colleagues to advise her one e.g. economic issues until, but never after, she has decided (and told her colleagues) that she would not interfere with the director of public prosecutions. She also pointed out that she offered the government an alternative: for SNC-Lavalin to send her a letter outlining their case for a remediation agreement which she would forward, without comment, to the director of public prosecutions but that never happened. Instead she was told, by Gerry Butts and by Michael Wernick that she needed to find a ‘solution’ that would satisfy the prime minister’s political desires.
NDP MP Murray Rankin, a seasoned lawyer himself and someone who, in my opinion, wast the best questioner of the day, agreed that there was significant and sustained inappropriate pressure put on then Attorney General Wilson-Raybould to interfere with the conduct of a prosecution for partisan political reasons and that this pressure came from the prime minister of Canada and from his most senior advisors. Liberal MPs Ruby Sahota and Irqa Khalid tried to do some damage control but Ms Wilson-Raybould batted them both away with ease, and she explained that she challenged the prime minister on the issue and he backed away. Other Liberal MPs also tried to change the channel but without much success, I think. Ms Wilson-Raybould, to her credit, did not take the obvious partisan political bait proffered by e.g. Lisa Raitt, and, equally, she beat back attempts by some Liberal MPs to challenge her ethics and legal judgement.
Ms Wilson-Raybould made the very useful suggestion that the committee should recommend to parliament that Canada should follow the British rule about the attorney general not sitting in the cabinet. That would mean, I think, dividing the offices of Attorney General and Justice Minister.
She said that she believes that she was shuffled out of the attorney general’s post because she would not give in to the pressure from the prime minister, other ministers and the PMO.
One has to wonder why Ms Wilson-Raybould still wants to sit in the Liberal caucus … unless, perhaps, she wants to unseat the prime minister, himself. I cannot believe that some very senior law officers are not, as I type, discussing the need for a formal investigation, and that might even force the prime minister to resign because the prime minister, himself, personally, may be accused of having crossed a clear legal line.