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Trump’s Latest Unlikely Helper: Justin Trudeau

by D.J. McGuire

There are two governments in what is sometimes called “Anglo-America.” One of them is facing charges of corruptions, demands for resignation, and the real risk of defenestration by the voters in the upcoming election.

The other is the Trump Administration.

It’s been that kind of month in Canada, where former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould pointedly accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff of attempting to waylay a prosecution of a government contracting firm that, (1) donated $100,000 illegally to Trudeau’s Liberal Party, (2) is being tried for massive bribes to the Qaddafi regime in Libya, and (3) has insisted that any judicially imposed restrictions on its ability to win future contracts would cripple it.

The firm, SNC-Lavalin, has demanded a Deferred Prosecution Agreement ever since DPAs were enacted – as a paragraph buried in a multi-hundred page omnibus budget passed last year. The Director of Public Prosecutions said no; as AG and Justice Minister (the posts are combined in Canada), Wilson-Raybould ratified that decision. Trudeau and his minions tried to talk her out of it for months afterwards before demoting her to Veterans Minister. The current AG – who, like the PM, just happens to have his district in the same city as SNC-Lavalin’s headquarters – insists a DPA is now possible (Global News).

As I write this, the PM himself has just addressed the issue. Stunningly, he didn’t contradict Wilson-Raybould’s assertions that he personally intervened – he even acknowledged he mentioned his own political situation (although he laughably insisted it “wasn’t partisan in nature” – Maclean’s transcript). He even goes so far as to say he should have intervened further(same link):

In the months that followed that meeting, I asked my staff to follow up regarding Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s final decision. I realize now that in addition, I should have done so personally, given the importance of this issue and the jobs that were on the line.

It’s that last bit that begins to reveal how Trudeau, in his increasingly desperate attempt to save himself, may unintentionally be giving Trump a lifeline.

Yesterday, the PM’s former top mandarin – Gerald Butts – testified before the House Justice Committee about his own interventions. He, too, defended them on the basis of the jobs lost if SNC-Lavalin went under. Paul Wells of Maclean’s(full disclosure: my favorite columnist in North America) explains the disconnect (emphasis in original):

To put labels on the two viewpoints here, Wilson-Raybould obviously thought a decision by the AG to interfere in decisions about public prosecutions should be exceptional. Butts thinks it should be routine. Wilson-Raybould wants the independence of the director of public prosecutions to be robust. Butts wants that independence to be minimal.

Does any of that sound familiar?

At first glance, Trudeau’s excuse may seem more policy-driven than Trump’s. First glances can be deceiving though. In both cases, the national leaders are using the economy as a cover for stopping legal proceedings that would hurt their political prospects. They are both hoping their voters and their intra-party allies focus not on the damage done to the rule of law but rather the supposedly noble goals they were pursuing while doing the damage.

Of course, Trudeau and Trump would list those “noble goals” rather differently, but both lists include “jobs” – now more than ever. Moreover, with an election seven months away, Trudeau is almost certain to use Trump as a foil in the upcoming campaign, insisting the opposition Conservatives are kinsmen of the rancid Trump Administration in the hopes his Liberal base will stay with him via outrage and fear.

Of course, what works for Trudeau in 2019 can – and almost certainly will – be used by Trump in 2020. In fact, unless the Conservatives do dethrone Trudeau this October, Trump could use “Crooked Justin” as an asset for his own re-election, even as he borrows the PM’s playbook.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Meanwhile, in Canada…

by D.J. McGuire

As America careens into its Article 48 moment, a near-universal sentiment among the center-left — that at least democracy was functioning well north of us, in Canada — was shattered by the very man who fueled it for over three years: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

I’ll admit that I have never been a fan of Trudeau, so watching his political star fall dramatically just as an election is on the horizon (October) heartened me more than most — if not all — American Trump critics. That doesn’t change the fact that the Trudeau persona has been badly damaged.

It all started about a week ago, when the Globe and Maildropped a huge accusation regarding the Prime Minister and his former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould (via Paul Wells of Macleans, still my favorite columnist in North America):

The story asserts, on the basis of unnamed sources, that Wilson-Raybould “came under heavy pressure to persuade the Public Prosecution Service of Canada” to cut a “deferred prosecution arrangement” with SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., the mammoth Montreal engineering and construction firm, to forestall a trial over corruption and fraud charges.

For the uninitiated, SNC-Lavalin is a major government contractor in Canada, headquartered in the province of Quebec, and under the legal microscope for bribing Qaddafi regime officials in Libya. Wells described the actions of the firm’s ex-CEO thusly: “If I may paraphrase, spraying money in every direction to grease whatever wheels needed greasing.”

When caught, SNC faced (Wells again) “the threat of never getting another federal contract again if the company continued to stink like a polecat.” Naturally, it loudly made sure everyone within range of its voices and donations would know that it would change its tune. Of course, those donations themselves also created trouble – to the tune of over $100,000 in campaign contributions that were illegal (most to the Liberals, the very party Trudeau leads).

Legalities aside, SNC still had friends in the Liberal Party, friends who were more than willing to go back on their word about putting an end to what we would call logrolling (and they call omnibus budget bills) for the purpose of putting “deferred prosecution arrangements” on the books as a potential out for the firm  …

… except that the Director of Public Prosecutions (the civil servant in charge of this sort of thing) refused to let SNC have one of those (Wells).

That’s where the Attorney General (the DPP’s boss) and the Prime Minister (the AG’s boss) come in …

… or not, if you believed the PM’s assertions last week that nothing untoward happened. Never mind that he couldn’t say what actually happened, just that it was all above board, and the former AG would certainly agree — if she were allowed to talk, that is. No matter, even silent, she was still in Cabinet (albeit demoted to Veterans Minister), a trusted — and trusting — member of the team. Trudeau calmly noted that, “In our system of governance, her presence in cabinet should speak for itself.” (National Post).

Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned less than 24 hours later — and noted on the way out that she had lawyered up with a retired Supreme Court Justice. That spoke for itself. In the days since, Trudeau has gone from insisting she never gave any hint at feeling pressured to … all but admitted she told him she was feeling pressure (National Post).

In one of the most bizarre off-shoots, a desperate Trudeau tried to hint Wilson-Raybould would still be AG if not for an unrelated resignation in cabinet that caused a reshuffle. Why Wilson-Raybould had to be part of said reshuffle was anyone’s guess, but social media had a field day (same link, emphasis added):

It’s never good for a politician when they’re being laughed at. Justin Trudeau’s claim that Jody Wilson-Raybould would still be justice minister if Scott Brison hadn’t resigned from politics quickly became a social media meme.

“If Scott Brison had not stepped down, Erik Karlsson would still be an Ottawa Senator,” wrote one hockey fan.

Brison’s spouse, Max St. Pierre, joined in the fun. “It’s ok, I usually blame my husband for everything too,” he tweeted.

The internet nearly blew up under the pressure of political nerds pointing out that Brison leaving his job as Treasury Board president did not necessarily mean Trudeau had to shuffle Wilson-Raybould. Rather, it offered him an opportunity to move a minister who was proving too independent for the prime minister’s liking.

Ouch.

Even in normal times, this would be both a serious crisis for Prime Minister Trudeau and an opportunity for his critics to enjoy laughs at his expense. However, these aren’t normal times. Canada has adopted a fixed-election law which mandates an election by October of this year. So far, only one poll has been in the field and reported out since the scandal blew … and it puts the opposition Conservatives up five points (Hill Times).

Before this year, the number of one-term majority governments tossed out by the voters was exactly one — and that was in the nineteenthcentury. Before last week, the idea that Trudeau would be turfed from power was nothing but a fevered Tory dream.

But as Harold Wilson supposedly said, a week is a long time in politics.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Trump’s Trade War: Part III

by D.J. McGuire 

A new casualty in Trump’s Trade War has become the most visible. Thankfully (for him, not for us), the victim (Boeing) is hardly sympathetic, but that doesn’t make the damage any less real.

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Trump’s Trade War

by D.J. McGuire

Over the eight months and change of the Trump Administration, two of his closest allies – both geopolitically and personally – have been Justin Trudeau and Theresa May, Prime Ministers of Canada and the United Kingdom, respectively.

This week, the Trump Administration declared a trade war on both of them – and the Democrats are practically silent. Between Trump’s economic ignorance and the opposition’s political malpractice, we’re in for a very bumpy ride.