Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s former principal secretary Gerald Butts will appear before the House of Commons justice committee next week as part of a new slate of three witnesses being called one day after Jody Wilson-Raybould’s explosive testimony on the SNC-Lavalin affair.
In a letter posted on Twitter, Butts wrote to the committee’s chair, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, saying he has evidence that is relevant.
“I watched the testimony of the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould yesterday. I believe my evidence will be of assistance to the Justice and Human Rights Committee,” the letter read.
He added that he needs “a short period of time” to receive legal advice and gather documents before the appearance.
The justice committee met behind closed doors on Thursday afternoon and announced afterwards that it had agreed to call three witnesses to answer questions on the SNC-Lavalin affair: Butts; Nathalie Drouin, the deputy attorney general; and Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council.
Wernick and Drouin have testified previously; both are being called back.
“After reviewing Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, we feel we need more clarification on the meeting of December 18 and the phone conversation of December 19,” wrote Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, chair of the committee, in a statement.
“We believe that it is important that Mr. Butts respond to the account of the meeting of the 18th provided by Ms. Jody Wilson- Raybould, in addition to the other allegations about him and PMO colleagues mentioned in her testimony.”
He continued, adding that Wernick and Drouin are being called back now that the government has issued a limited waiver of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality for witnesses appearing before the committee as well as the ethics commissioner.
“We would like to hear from them about their recollection of the events and conversations mentioned in Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony.”
Butts, who is known to be one of Trudeau’s oldest and closest friends, resigned earlier this month amid allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office tried to prevent the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
In his resignation letter, which was shared on Twitter, Butts denied accusations that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Wilson-Raybould to help the Montreal engineering giant.
Wilson-Raybould’s testimony before the justice committee on Wednesday referenced a meeting she had with Butts in December. She claimed that she brought up “the barrage of people hounding me and my staff” over the SNC-Lavalin case.
“Gerry then took over the conversation and said how we need a solution on the SNC stuff, he said I needed to find a solution,” Wilson-Raybould recounted.
Days later, Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff was summoned into a meeting with Butts and Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford to discuss SNC-Lavalin.
“They wanted to know where I am in terms of finding a solution,” she said. “They told her that they felt like the issue was getting worse and that I was not doing anything. They referenced a possible call with the PM and the clerk the next day.”
After the meeting, Wilson-Raybould said her chief of staff told her she raised the issue of interference to Butts.
She said Butts told her chief of staff that “there is no solution here that does not involve some interference.”
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