Well, that about wraps it up for Trudeau, doesn’t it? Either Jody Raybould-Wilson is lying, or she’s deluded, or the Prime Minister needs to resign. It’s that simple.
Her testimony Wednesday was clear and consistent in its general tone and its agonizing detail. She was repeatedly pressured to interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on grounds that are specifically legally excluded, from the national economic interest to the Liberals’ partisan fortunes. And when she resisted with increasing bluntness she was fired and her deputy minister was told one of the first items for her replacement would be to discuss a “Deferred Prosecution Agreement” for SNC-Lavalin with… the Prime Minister.
Cries of “resign” are too common in politics. But if it’s true, a number of people must step down and will be lucky to escape prosecution. So let us take the possibilities in order.
First, perhaps she is lying. But for what purpose? And how? I’m not raising this possibility because I think it plausible. I’m just trying to be systematic given how much is at stake.
Frankly I cannot see any motive for Raybould-Wilson to lie. She wasn’t cornered politically, cutting a deal with prosecutors or angling for a book deal. To suggest that she concocted this whole tale because she totally misunderstood a series of communications or was petty and resentful seems to take us into the realm of delusion not deception. And in any case her testimony does not bear the “stamp of imposture” let alone derangement.
Crucially, she took notes, very wise when you start to think something sinister is happening. Vague allegations of pressure, dim recollections of meetings and conversations, a sense of hint and innuendo, these could be put down to error, misinterpretation or even misrepresentation. But she gave verifiable dates and places, and credible aides-memoire containing precisely the slimy phrases people would use in meetings and phone calls whose purpose and number (roughly 20) was already well-nigh inexplicable if they were not to put improper pressure on the Attorney General of Canada over a DPA for SNC-Lavalin.
So is anyone prepared to call her a liar? In one sense they already did. From former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Gerald Butts to Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, they insisted there was no improper pressure. But it was always done with just enough vagueness to confuse the issue… until she laid out the names, dates and places.
Now that the rubber has hit the road, do they dispute that these discussions happened? Hardly. Wernick admitted meeting Raybould-Wilson on Dec. 19 and raising the dire economic consequences if SNC-Lavalin did not get a DPA. Surely he knows the law says “the prosecutor must not consider the national economic interest” when granting one. But he insisted it was “lawful and appropriate” for him to, you know, mention it anyway.
Which gives you some idea how far they’d get denying the conversations took place at all. But then what do they claim went on in those meetings and, crucially, what is their supporting evidence? Raybould-Wilson’s notes have a dismal plausibility. So what have Butts, Wernick, Trudeau’s Chief of Staff Katie Telford, Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s Chief of Staff Ben Chin, and indeed Trudeau himself, to offer? It’s hard to forge such things. But blank paper now looks very bad. Have they got anything convincing?
If not, well, is Raybould-Wilson perhaps insane? Again I ask not because it seems likely but because, as C.S. Lewis pointed out in a very different context, there really are only three possibilities. Either she is lying, she is a lunatic or a bunch of people better call their own lawyers while walking in the snow.
Obviously she does not give a general impression of madness. But there has been more than a hint that on this particular issue she was delusional, that she imagined the whole thing, misreading helpful practical discussions about context as threatening and improper and a cabinet shuffle demotion as a firing from her old job. She is, someone whispered, “difficult”. Not a team player. Sort of… unhinged.
Regrettably for this line of argument, if Raybould-Wilson suffered a DPA paranoid delusion it was remarkably detailed and plausible. It is those denouncing her whose interpretation seems imprecise yet also incompatible with the known facts and our understanding of human nature and politics. It is they who had every reason to lie, and whose conduct exhibits all the “tells” from shifting stories to inexplicable resignations to pompously belligerent rhetoric including Wernick’s about political assassination. Besides, we need the same evidence for her delusion as we would for her deception: Credible, documented accounts of what happened that contradict her version.
OK, there’s one last line of defence, the PM’s famous relativism. “I completely disagree with the former attorney general’s characterization of events,” he smirked Wednesday, apparently denying not her truth but the very concept of truth, just as he once shrugged off accusations of groping with the postmodern trope about different people experiencing things differently.
“’What is truth?’ said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.” But if we do, and if Raybould-Wilson is not lying or nuts, she was the target of an orchestrated campaign to pervert the course of justice directed from the very top. In which case Trudeau must resign. So must the PCO clerk, along with all Trudeau’s staff who were involved. And Morneau’s staff who pressured her, while Morneau himself only hangs on if he somehow persuades us he knew nothing about it. And the RCMP must investigate.
It is that simple.
Photo Credit: Jeff Burney, Loonie Politics
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