PM Trudeau reflecting on Wilson-Raybould's presence in Liberal caucus

Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson Raybould walks to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 26 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS  Sean Kilpatrick

He pointed to "explosive testimony" by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who told the House of Commons justice committee on Wednesday that Trudeau's staff and other senior officials applied undue pressure on her to settle a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin.

The pressure: Former AG Jody Wilson-Raybould said top Trudeau aides pressured her in the final months of 2018 to agree to a settlement.

The RCMP first laid corruption and fraud charges against SNC-Lavalin in February 2015 over allegations that it used bribery as it sought government business in Libya.

"Canadians need to know that we have an officer of Parliament who is tasked with a specific role to make sure that in questions where there are disagreements amongst politicians, amongst elected officials, there is an arbiter who is empowered to be like a judge, who is an officer of Parliament, who will make a determination in this issue", Trudeau said after an announcement at the Canadian Space Agency.

She said she had made clear she was not prepared to help the company avoid a trial and that she believes it was why she was demoted in a Cabinet shuffle in January, which Mr Trudeau denies.

This is a developing story.

Wilson-Raybould's chief of staff, Jessica Prince, was eventually summoned to an urgent December 18 meeting with Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, and his principal secretary, Gerald Butts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted in Montreal on Wednesday evening that neither he, nor any members of his staff, put undue pressure on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in an effort to encourage her to end the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. A spokeswoman for the prime minister said he will speak later in Montreal.

O'Malley said that Wilson-Raybould's testimony made it look like the prime minister was trying to "slide around" the restrictions on interference "on a technicality".

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Wilson-Raybould said during her testimony that she did not feel that any illegal activity transpired by other Liberal officials who allegedly pressured her, but that she did feel it was "inappropriate" and "treading on risky ground".

"I'll say this. I resigned from Cabinet because I did not have confidence to sit around the Cabinet table", she said. The political fallout, however, is hard to predict. Trudeau's path to re-election runs through the largely French-speaking province, where his defense of SNC-Lavalin is being applauded.

In an unusual move, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.to say she fully backed Trudeau.

Now, people are calling on him to resign. It centers around allegations that SNC-Lavalin bribed officials in the Libyan government under strongman Muammar Gaddafi between 2001 and 2011.

In all, she cited 10 phone calls and 10 meetings that included a total of 11 people outside her office, all steadily urging her to intervene out of a fear that SNC-Lavalin would cut its workforce or relocate its head office. A guilty verdict on corruption for SNC-Lavalin would mean the massive engineering-construction firm would be barred from bidding on federal procurement contracts for 10 years. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the opposition NDP, said there should be a public inquiry but stopped short of c alling for Trudeau to step down.

The former Attorney General named several prominent politicians and staff who were engaged in pressuring her, some with "veiled threats".

In Quebec's National Assembly MNAs were quick to support the "fleuron" company, but were cautious when saying if they thought Trudeau and the Prime Minister's Office had done the right thing.

He said the ethics committee and justice committee is investigating the case.

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