Donald Trump has just handed a gift to the Huawei executive trying to fight extradition to the United States.
Canada has been saying all along that this case isn’t about politics and the Canadian government is following the rule of law, but then Mr. Trump crashed in to say that the prosecution could be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China.
Yes, that’s right: U.S. prosecutors threw Canada into the middle of the mess insisting it is an important legal matter that Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou be prosecuted. The U.S. President not only threw Canada under the bus, he might have thrown the U.S. legal case out the window.
Do Mr. Trump’s comments put the extradition case against Ms. Meng in jeopardy? “Oh yes,” said Dalhousie University law professor Rob Currie, an expert in extradition law. “He has given her arguments, for sure.”
Mr. Trump has also given Chinese propagandists a gift from heaven. They’ve been saying that Canada is serving the United States in a case that’s about politics and money.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, suggested in a sort-of diplomatic way that it might be better if the U.S. President would, you know, shut up. “It is quite obvious that it ought to be incumbent on parties seeking extradition, recognizing that Canada is a rule-of-law country, to ensure that any extradition request is about ensuring that justice is done … and is not politicized,” she said.
Obvious, maybe, but not to Mr. Trump. In retrospect, the odds were better than even that he would say something that appears to interfere with justice.
Canada should be aggrieved because government lawyers dutifully sent out the RCMP to arrest Ms. Meng at U.S. request, and now China is threatening Canada. They have locked up a Canadian foreign service officer on leave, Michael Kovrig – more or less as a pawn. Then Mr. Trump told the world Ms. Meng is just a pawn.
His comments jeopardize the U.S. legal case for extradition, at least in theory, because Ms. Meng’s lawyers can argue it shows her prosecution is politicized.
Prof. Currie of Dalhousie said Ms. Meng’s lawyers might use those comments on two occasions in the extradition process.
When Ms. Meng appears before a judge for a committal hearing, her lawyers might argue the comments show she faces a politicized prosecution that violates her right to “fundamental justice” under Canada’s Charter of Rights.
There have been cases where Canadian judges have blocked extradition to the United States under that section; for example, when a U.S. prosecutor and judge had warned the accused they would face tougher sentences if they fought extradition.
Later, Ms. Meng’s lawyers can argue Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould should refuse to sign an order authorizing extradition, either on the grounds that the United States is pursuing her for a political offence or that she faces a politicized prosecution that is “unjust or oppressive.” The minister’s decision can be reviewed by the courts.
Prof. Currie said it is not easy to beat the Crown in an extradition case, but some of these legal issues haven’t been tested often in Canadian courts. Certainly, there has never been a case such as this.
As President, Mr. Trump has the power to appoint and fire U.S. Attorneys, so it’s not easy to make a case that federal prosecutors are legally beyond his influence. That point is hotly debated in U.S. legal circles.
So Canadian Crown attorneys will likely have to counter the notion that the prosecution is politicized by arguing Mr. Trump is just talking – essentially that he is a bloviating grandstander who says many things that have nothing to do with reality.
“They’re going to have to stand up and defame the President of the United States in a Canadian court,” Prof. Currie said. “That’s a tough position for a Canadian government lawyer to be in.” But then, the blame lies with Mr. Trump.