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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa March 7, 2019.Blair Gable/The Globe and Mail

Not an apology. Not really an act of contrition. Not a full-throated defence. Not a detailed accounting of events. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s press conference on the SNC-Lavalin affair included an assertion that there were lessons learned although he wasn’t terribly specific about which ones.

So what was that?

The Prime Minister said that he didn’t do anything wrong, but he has some regrets about how the whole thing went down. That he should have listened more, that he should have been aware of the erosion of trust between his closest aide, Gerald Butts, and the former justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould. He should have made sure his minister knew she could talk to him. Or something like that: He said he wished Ms. Wilson-Raybould had come to him.

Maybe that’s enough to win over folks who were perturbed by the character clash, with the idea that Mr. Trudeau’s bullies were pressuring her and that he sacked her for standing up to him.

The Prime Minister, after all, finally gave a longer answer about this whole business, four weeks after the first story broke. It was that he – and his PMO – didn’t put inappropriate pressure on the then-attorney-general, but he understands now that she felt differently. He wishes he knew sooner. Live and learn.

But Mr. Trudeau did not put the SNC-Lavalin affair firmly behind him.

Trudeau speaks on SNC-Lavalin: A guide to what he said Thursday

Trudeau’s response to the SNC-Lavalin affair wasn’t a failure to communicate – it was a failure to lead

Canadians were waiting to hear the Prime Minister’s full explanation of what happened, and they didn’t get it.

Mr. Trudeau said his PMO thought she was open to hearing new input, when she felt the matter was closed. He said there was an erosion of trust between Ms. Wilson-Raybould and his former principal secretary, Mr. Butts, that he wasn’t aware of – and he should have been aware. He said his concerns, and those of his staff, were about the SNC-Lavalin jobs that might be lost, and the people affected.

But what about the things that Ms. Wilson-Raybould alleged? She said the PMO was improperly trying to push politics into a decision on a criminal prosecution. She testified that when two of the PM’s aides discussed the SNC-Lavalin prosecution with her, she told them they were interfering politically, and they raised the political fallout, Quebec elections and Liberal re-election prospects. She said that a senior adviser to the Prime Minister, Mathieu Bouchard, told her chief of staff, “We can have the best policy in the world but we need to get re-elected.”

Did those things actually happen? The Prime Minister wasn’t saying yes or no. “There were detailed conversations on a broad range of things that were discussed and laid bare in the various testimonies that we heard over the past weeks,” he said. That wasn’t a full and frank explanation.

It is believable that the Prime Minister and his entourage really were concerned about the risks to SNC-Lavalin jobs, and it’s not surprising that they would have an eye on the potential political impact, too.

Mr. Butts testified Wednesday that the PMO was not asking Ms. Wilson-Raybould to change her decision – they thought the decision was still being considered, and all they wanted her to do was get an outside legal opinion. Mr. Trudeau echoed that on Thursday.

But even so, it’s pretty easy to see how Ms. Wilson-Raybould would feel under pressure.

Mr. Trudeau recounted a Sept. 17 meeting with Ms. Wilson-Raybould in which she indicated that she did not intend to intervene to halt the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and instead strike a remediation agreement. But, he said, that she agreed to revisit the idea, and think about it more. He said she never told him she had confirmed her decision, so it was still up for discussion.

Yet, the PM asked her to reconsider. His aides kept pressing her to get a legal opinion that might suggest other options. It was clear which outcome they wanted – the PM had expressed concerns about the impact on SNC-Lavalin jobs, had asked her to reconsider her initial decision and, later on, in December, the country’s top civil servant said he thought Mr. Trudeau was in a mood to get it done one way or another. That sounds like pressure.

Maybe that could be explained – why some things were done, and what was done wrong. Mr. Trudeau moved on to telling us he’d learned a lesson without really explaining what happened.

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