Justin Trudeau banishes corruption scandal whistleblowers for questioning his leadership

Justin Trudeau has banished two Members of Parliament from his party’s caucus after they questioned his leadership amid inappropriate interference in a corruption case of a powerful Canadian engineering company.

Trudeau took the unprecedented step of kicking out former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, a former Cabinet minister, from the Liberal party caucus on Tuesday.

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Both lawmakers are at the forefront of allegations that the Trudeau administration pressured Wilson-Raybould not to pursue a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin, a company that employs about 9,000 people in Canada and some 52,000 around the world, out of fear of potential job losses.

The company is accused of bribing officials in Libya with millions of dollars between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts there.

Trudeau said the two lawmakers were ousted for questioning his leadership and particularly in the case of Wilson-Raybould, he pointed to the secret recording she made during a phone call with Canada’s top civil servant where he appeared to pressure her to drop the prosecution at the behest of Trudeau.

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The prime minister said the recording of the conversation was “unconscionable,” though he didn’t address the contents of the call.

“What I can say is that I hold my head high & that I can look myself in the mirror knowing I did what I was required to do and what needed to be done based on principles & values that must always transcend party,” Wilson-Raybould wrote in a tweet. “I have no regrets. I spoke truth as I will continue to do.”

Philpott, meanwhile, said that Trudeau is continuing to focus on whistleblowers rather than admitting that the inappropriate pressure was exerted.

“Rather than acknowledge the obvious — that a range of individuals had inappropriately attempted to pressure the former Attorney General in relation to a prosecutorial decision — and apologize for what occurred, a decision was made to attempt to deny the obvious — to attack Jody Wilson-Raybould’s credibility and attempt to blame her,” Philpott said on social media.

“That approach now appears to be focused on whether Jody Wilson-Raybould should have audiotaped the Clerk instead of the circumstances that prompted Jody Wilson-Raybould to feel compelled to do so,” she added.

In the recording released on Friday, Michael Wernick, the official, told Wilson-Raybould that the prime minister, fearing the loss of Canadian jobs, “is determined, quite firm” to avoid prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould said during the call that she found the aide’s pressure “entirely inappropriate” and accused the administration of “political interference,” which Wernick denied.

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Wernick is heard in the recording saying it’s not beneficial for Wilson-Raybould to be at “loggerheads” with Trudeau, who suggested a deferred prosecution whereby the company could be fined instead of undergoing a full-blown trial.

“I think he is going to find a way to get it done one way or another. He's in that kind of mood. I wanted you to be aware of that,” Wernick said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.