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Trudeau's principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Last Updated Feb 18, 2019 at 11:38 am PDT

FILE - Gerald Butts, principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, resigned on Feb. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured Wilson-Raybould

Butts says the allegation is distracting from the "vital work" Trudeau is doing

OTTAWA — Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary and long-time friend, has resigned amid allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office interfered to prevent criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

In a statement, Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the Montreal engineering giant avoid prosecution on corruption and bribery charges related to contracts in Libya.

He says the accusation is “simply not true.”

Nevertheless, Butts says the allegation is distracting from the “vital work” Trudeau is doing.

Butts says it’s his responsibility to defend his own reputation and that it’s in the best interests of the government for him to step away.

Butts has acknowledged that Wilson-Raybould briefly raised the SNC-Lavalin case during a conversation with him in December; he says he advised her to speak with the clerk of the Privy Council.

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says something has to be done after the Liberal-dominated Commons Justice Committee refused to hear testimony from key members of the SNC Lavalin Affair.

Speaking in Burnaby earlier today, Singh is demanding a deeper investigation.

“It’s become clear now that we need a public inquiry to get to the bottom of what’s happened,” he said. “So we’re calling on this government to launch a public inquiry, to have the independence to ascertain the truth of what’s going on.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has already written directly to the prime minister asking him to waive solicitor-client privilege so former attorney general and Vancouver-Granville MP Jody Wilson-Raybould can publicly talk about what happened.

With files from The Canadian Press.