Opinion

Two arguments that Trudeau did nothing wrong--and why they don't hold water

There are a couple of arguments one could make asserting that Trudeau still did nothing unethical over these conversations with her. Neither of them holds water after evaluating the evidence.

Jordan Schroeder Montreal, QC
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Yesterday afternoon, former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould testified regarding the alleged pressure she received from the prime minister to interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

After watching it, there are a couple arguments one could make asserting that Trudeau still did nothing unethical over these conversations with her. Neither of them holds water after evaluating the evidence.

The facts alleged by Wilson-Raybould don't constitute political pressure

One argument against his moral blameworthiness could go like this:

Someone could agree with Wilson-Raybould's version of the facts (what was said, when it was said), but come to a different conclusion about whether this constitutes political pressure. In other words, one could argue that these were appropriate discussions.

But the interference was clearly political.

If you accept Wilson-Raybould's testimony as true, it included quotations of people directly citing political concerns, such as Trudeau's personal riding re-election prospects, as a reason to make a non-political decision.

They cited jobs as well, and the federal election coming up.

They literally said, "we need to get re-elected."

While there are some situations where the facts may be in a grey area about whether something is political, this set of facts does not allow a reasonable person to conclude that the interference wasn't political.

The interference also clearly constitutes "pressuring". Again, a reasonable person, like Trudeau, cannot claim ignorance that his 10 calls and 10 meetings did not constitute pressure. Most of these occurred after Wilson-Raybould warned Trudeau not to interfere with her decision. The threat to have a lineup of people write editorials about her is quite clearly pressure as well.

Based on this analysis, it was pressure, and it was political. This makes it objectively inappropriate and unethical. There isn't room for Trudeau to claim ignorance on these facts.

The facts alleged by Wilson-Raybould are incorrect

An alternative argument is that Wilson-Raybould's version of events isn't true.

She could either be honestly mistaken or intentionally lying.

In this case, it wouldn't be that the conclusion that she's drawn is incorrect, but that the facts on which she has drawn the conclusion are incorrect. For this to be a strong argument, one would need reason to prefer Trudeau's version of the facts.

Trudeau's version of the facts should not be preferred for three reasons.

First, he hasn't actually given his alternate version of facts. While Wilson-Raybould gave a set of facts in the form of dates and quotations from which observers can draw their own conclusions, Trudeau has not. He's simply made vague assertions that her version is wrong, that civil servants do an exceptional job of impartially serving Canadians, and that there wasn't inappropriate pressure. These aren't facts. He's drawing conclusions for us.

The second reason is the reliability of the record of Wilson-Raybould's facts.

She stated that she took notes of each conversation and meeting. This is believable. Although it might seem strange to people that someone finish a conversation and immediately take notes about what was said and date the notes, this is a very common practice for lawyers.

Wilson-Raybould undoubtedly has this habit ingrained after decades of law practice. These notes give her a more accurate record of what was said than the memories of various political staffers.

The third reason is simple: she has no motive to intentionally lie, and the political staffers and politicians obviously do. This reason is somewhat unfair because these actors can't change the circumstance they happen to be in, which gives rise to their motive. The weight given to this reason should be limited.

Overall, there is not yet a strong argument against Trudeau's blameworthiness after Wilson-Raybould's explosive testimony yesterday. His version of the facts should not be preferred, and when one does believe Wilson-Raybould's facts, there isn't a defence that his actions don't constitute political pressure.

The Liberals should move into damage control and making amends instead of fighting against the conclusion Canadians will likely come to.

What do you think about these arguments? Join the conversation by commenting below!

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