UPDATED: Crown, Meng defence trade fire over Trump comments in brisk proceedings

The extradition hearings for Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. CFO Meng Wanzhou continued Thursday at a brisk pace, with Crown counsel Robert Frater leading the counter-argument against the defence's claims that Donald Trump's comments irreversibly damaged the integrity of the proceedings.

Frater, speaking in response to defence language yesterday that Trump's comments in December 2018 - about possibly bringing up Meng's arrest earlier that month in trade negotiations with China - said that the timing of the defence's placement of what topics to challenge in court shows the defence was not overly worried about Trump's comments poisoning the integrity of the hearings.

"Their decision to pursue first the issue of double criminality [heard and decided upon last spring] is to continue... under the aura of interference they've argued," Frater said. "If the charge [against Trump's comments] were so serious, the time to raise it is at the beginning, before double criminality."

The Meng case is two years into its proceedings in court.

Frater also challenged this morning a precedent brought forward by Meng's defence, a case where a justice official from a requesting state threatened an extradition target on television while the proceedings were still ongoing. The judge in that case stayed the proceedings because of the egregious behaviour of the justice official in the requesting state, and Meng's defence has compared Trump's comments similarly.

Frater, however, said the case was not applicable as a precedent because Trump's vague comments - not directly addressed to Meng - do not rise to the level of threat.

"The comments have in no way affected the fairness of these proceedings," Frater said. "We all know the elephant in the room is the geopolitical situation. Yesterday, my friends [the defence] tried to bring that elephant into the court room... We urge you [the court] to focus on the law and the facts, and leave the politics to the politicians."

Frater also criticized defence lawyer Robert Peck's argument that the Meng case is essentially an extension of the "U.S. being at war with Huawei," noting that such statements are conjectures and cannot be proven true or false definitively - and therefore should not be presented to the court as fact.

In response, defence lawyer Eric Gottardi reiterated that Meng is not arguing the U.S. charges against her are politically motivated. Rather, Gottardi emphasized the comments of Trump created an aura of political interference over the proceedings, which has already seeped into the top level of Canadian narrative in the form of Prime Minister Justice Trudeau's recent comments that any U.S. China trade deal must not be signed without addressing the case of Michael Kovrig/Spavor, who were arrested by Beijing in retaliation of Meng's detention.

"Our position has not changed," Gottardi said. "It's fair to the prime minister... It was a very serious statement. This is very bad."

Gottardi also targetted Frater's mentioning of comments by officials such as former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others as more indicative of the U.S.'s political position on the case than Trump's. Gottardi likened Trump as "the CEO of the requesting state," adding that his comments would supercede other officials' - especially given that Trump has a history of acting impulsively against his subordinates' advice.

"Trump's comments were vague in timing and consequences, but not vague in its action and purpose," Gottardi said. "He intended to intervene... If his comments were anodyne, then why was the reaction so quick from both sides of the border?"

The hearings are now adjourned until March 15, when the proceedings will tackle another branch of the abuse-of-process allegations made by Meng against U.S. and Canadian authorities. The gap in the proceedings come as the court completed the portion on Trump's comments within two days - much shorter than the two weeks set aside for the cause (and also the multi-month witness testimony portion of the hearings late last year).