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Butts (L) and Trudeau in 2015. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Justin Trudeau’s former top aide, Gerald Butts, denied in testimony before a parliamentary committee today that the prime minister made “inappropriate” interventions in a sensitive legal case, as Canada’s former attorney general has alleged.

Why it matters: Trudeau is facing the deepest scandal of his political career ahead of what is likely to be a tight re-election bid in October.

  • Butts testified that he is "firmly convinced that nothing happened here beyond the normal operations of government.” Butts, sometimes described as Trudeau's "right-hand man," resigned 2 weeks ago as his principal secretary in an effort to slow the fast-moving scandal. That hasn't worked.

Catch up quick: Global engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin is at the heart of the controversy. The firm faces fraud and corruption charges over its dealings with the Moammar Gadhafi regime in Libya from 2001 to 2011.

  • SNC would be banned from bidding for government contracts for 10 years if convicted. Butts testified that such a ban would put at least 9,000 jobs in jeopardy, most of them in Trudeau’s home province of Quebec.
  • Jody Wilson-Raybould testified last week that from September to December of last year, when she was serving as attorney general, she was the subject of a “consistent and sustained effort” from Butts and other top officials to settle the matter out of court through a “deferred prosecution agreement.”
  • She claims that Trudeau personally “asked her to ‘find a solution’ that would avoid SNC-Lavalin having to cut jobs or move from Montreal,” an intervention she considered “inappropriate” but not illegal, per the FT.
  • The Globe and Mail newspaper first reported last month that Trudeau’s office had pressed Wilson-Raybould over the case. Wilson-Raybould, who was shifted to the veteran affairs ministry in January, resigned from the Cabinet.

What they’re saying: Butts claimed Wilson-Raybould’s demotion had “absolutely nothing to do with SNC-Lavalin” and that she hadn’t raised any concerns about inappropriate pressure prior to the Cabinet reshuffle.

  • “All we ever asked the attorney-general to do was to consider a second opinion,” he said, arguing that was prudent when “so many people's livelihoods are [at] stake.”
  • Trudeau last week denied any wrongdoing and said he “completely disagreed” with Wilson-Raybould’s characterization of events.

The latest: Jane Philpott, president of the Treasury Board, resigned from the Cabinet yesterday over her “serious concerns” about the allegations.

Go deeper

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Jack Dorsey stepping down as Twitter CEO

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jack Dorsey is stepping down as CEO of Twitter, the company announced Monday. He will be succeeded by CTO Parag Agrawal, effective immediately.

The big picture: Dorsey is also the CEO of financial payments company Square, which he co-founded in 2009, and has become a crypto evangelist in recent years.

Tracking the pandemic's unequal impact

Expand chart
Data: Morning Consult/Axios; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The pandemic was bound to hit the most economically vulnerable among us the hardest. New polling data from Morning Consult, out this morning, shows the degree to which those difficulties were more concentrated among people of color.

Catch up quick: The Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index has tracked the economic experience of adults in three wage groups since May 2020. We began publishing the findings in May of this year, and six months in, we’re slicing the data a little differently — and looking at inequality between ethnicities.

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