PMO tried to persuade Wilson-Raybould on SNC-Lavalin, not pressure her: Butts

Justin Trudeau's former principal secretary says the SNC-Lavalin criminal case had nothing to do with the prime minister's decision to move Jody Wilson-Raybould out of her coveted post as justice minister in a mid-January cabinet shuffle.

Gerald Butts is testifying at the House of Commons justice committee, offering what he calls a ``very different'' version of events from the one Wilson-Raybould gave the committee last week.

She alleged she was subjected to relentless, inappropriate pressure, and veiled threats about being removed as justice minister and attorney general, to intervene to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on bribery and fraud charges related to contracts in Libya.

Butts says staff in the Prime Minister's Office always respected the fact that, as attorney general, it was up to Wilson-Raybould alone to decide whether to order negotiation of a remediation agreement with the Montreal engineering giant; such an agreement would have forced the company to pay stiff penalties while avoiding a criminal conviction that could financially cripple it.

Butts says he and others tried only to persuade Wilson-Raybould to seek independent legal advice on the matter, given the potential impact on the company's 9,000 employees and the fact that remediation agreements are a new feature in Canadian law.

Butts says it was made clear to Wilson-Raybould that she was free to ignore their advice and, if she agreed to seek an external opinion, was equally free to ignore that as well.