POLITICS
04/05/2019 14:06 EDT | Updated 04/05/2019 15:03 EDT

Jody Wilson-Raybould Denies She Tried To Restrict New Attorney General On SNC-Lavalin

She called out “leaked information from anonymous sources” as inappropriate.

Adrian Wyld/CP
Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves Parliament Hill after a short visit in Ottawa on April 2, 2019.

Jody Wilson-Raybould is forcefully denying that she ever sought assurances her replacement as attorney general would not give SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement as a condition for ending her feud with the prime minister.

"I would absolutely never do that," Wilson-Raybould told CBC Radio's "The Early Edition" Friday. "I'm very clear on what my role was as an attorney general and the discussion that we've been having for the last number of months is around the fundamental principle of prosecutorial independence, the principle that I have upheld and will continue to uphold."

Wilson-Raybould told a House of Commons justice committee in February that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other key officials exerted inappropriate pressure on her when she was attorney general to help SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based engineering giant, land a deal to halt prosecution on bribery charges.

Watch: Wilson-Raybould, Philpott say they have no regrets

Trudeau turfed Wilson-Raybould and former cabinet minister Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus Tuesday, citing a lack of trust in the MPs after weeks of strife and unrest.

In the aftermath, unnamed sources told The Toronto Star and later CBC News that Wilson-Raybould presented conditions to Trudeau and other Liberals before she quit cabinet in February, including a public admission from the prime minister that his office crossed the line.

According to insiders in both reports, Wilson-Raybould wanted some kind of commitment that her predecessor as attorney general, David Lametti, would not direct the director of public prosecutions to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement.

Sources told HuffPost Canada that when Wilson-Raybould met with the prime minister in Vancouver in February, she told him she would quit cabinet if Lametti reversed her decision on SNC-Lavalin. She quit a few hours after Trudeau suggested her presence in cabinet meant nothing improper had happened on the file.

During her testimony on Feb. 21, Wilson-Raybould said she continued to have concerns about the matter after she was shuffled to Veterans Affairs in January. "... I knew that in my new role, still sitting around the cabinet table, if a directive had been placed into the Gazette, I would have resigned immediately from cabinet."

I hoped all along... the prime minister would have accepted some responsibility for wrongdoing in this case and essentially apologized to Canadian.Jody Wilson-Raybould

Placing a demand on the prime minister, however, could be seen as interfering in the attorney general's independence — the very issue Wilson-Raybould has said spurred her exit from Trudeau's inner circle.

"I have to say unequivocally that I would never interfere with the independence of the attorney general," Wilson-Raybould told "The Early Edition".

When asked by host Stephen Quinn if she said anything at all about how Lametti should approach the SNC-Lavalin file, Wilson-Raybould said: "Of course I didn't."

She was less forthcoming about other reported conditions she had for Trudeau. According to The Star and the CBC, Wilson-Raybould wanted Trudeau to fire his principal secretary Gerald Butts and Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick. She also wanted the removal of Mathieu Bouchard, a senior staffer in the Prime Minister's Office.

Butts quit Trudeau's office in February, while Wernick announced his retirement last month and will be replaced in weeks. Both men testified before the House justice committee that Wilson-Raybould did not face undue pressure on the SNC-Lavalin file.

Reuters
FILE PHOTOS: Liberal MP and former Canadian justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Gerald Butts, who quit last month as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief aide, are seen in this combination photo testifying before the House of Commons justice committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on February 27, 2019 and on March 6, 2019 respectively. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (L) Patrick Doyle (R)

When pressed if she called for PMO staffers and Canada's top bureaucrat to be fired, Wilson-Raybould said she does not respond to "leaked information from anonymous sources" other than to point out that such leaks are inappropriate.

"What I can say is that I hoped all along... the prime minister would have accepted some responsibility for wrongdoing in this case and essentially apologized to Canadians," she said.

Wilson-Raybould said there were "a number of conversations" that happened after she was shuffled out of her role as attorney general and justice minister on Jan. 14, but that they are covered by cabinet confidence.

Though Trudeau waived solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidences so that Wilson-Raybould could testify about the matter before committee, those waivers only covered her period as attorney general.

Wilson-Raybould declined to tell the committee about discussions that took place after she was moved to Veterans Affairs in January and in the leadup to her resignation in early February.

More from HuffPost Canada:

Lametti told reporters Thursday that if Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould had conversations about possible conditions around the SNC-Lavalin file, he was not aware of them.

"The prime minister has never tried to direct me," Lametti said. "If someone else tries to direct me then they'll hear about it."

Wilson-Raybould's former Liberal colleagues have also pounced on allegations that she sought to in any way meddle in the current attorney general's decision on SNC-Lavalin.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, and Toronto MP John McKay were both asked about the issue on "Follow-Up," HuffPost Canada's politics podcast. The episode will be released later Friday.

Bennett said the "revelation has really enraged people," considering how Wilson-Raybould quit over alleged interference in the attorney general's decision.

"And now she was directing the PMO to direct the next attorney general," Bennett said. "It is unbelievable."

McKay called it "remarkable" that Wilson-Raybould reportedly had demands for the prime minister.

"Have you, in any of your wildest imaginations of cabinet ministers leaving, seen such a trail of conditions and statement and veiled threats," he said. "And I think when we step back, and maybe when history is written, it will be one of the more remarkable cabinet resignations ever."

With files from Althia Raj, The Canadian Press