How much preparation does it take to tell the truth?

Brian Mulroney will get plenty of special treatment at the Oliphant Inquiry

090511_mulroney2As we await Brian Mulroney’s appearance before the Oliphant inquiry, we’re hearing a lot about how well-prepared he is:

After long hours of preparation with his band of lawyers, Mulroney is apparently in good form.

“He reminds me of a political leader mid-campaign, pre-debate, at the end of a long set of preliminary rounds, well-prepped, psyched for the main event,” Robin Sears, a spokesman for Mulroney said in an e-mail exchange.

“People forget that he is an incredibly disciplined lawyer as well as the most effective (political) strategist of his generation, comfortable with thousands of pages of evidence, chewing over strategies and lines of engagement, legal process and nuance.”

Prepped? Psyched? Strategies? Nuance?

Mulroney knows what went on between him and Schreiber. If he’s got “nothing to hide,” all he has to do is tell us. As he could have told us at his deposition in 1996, or in front of the ethics committee. Or, indeed, any time. It doesn’t take an army of lawyers. You just open your mouth and talk.

As they say, the great thing about telling the truth is it’s easier to keep your story straight.

INSTADATE: And then there’s this business:

Mulroney has been offered an opportunity to make an opening statement to the inquiry headed by Justice Jeffrey Oliphant – a chance that his advisers say he’ll probably pass up.

He will, however, have the advantage of facing his own lawyer, Guy Pratte, on his opening day of testimony and possibly for part of the second day as well.

The aim, says Sears, will be to let Mulroney “frame the story from the point of view of how it was lived by him.”

Huh? Since when does a witness get to be grilled by his own lawyer? I know the commission counsel gets to question him later, but by then the story will indeed have been well and truly “framed.”

No other witness has been accorded this treatment — certainly not Schreiber, his business partner in the dealings under scrutiny. I’m told there is no precedent for it. (UPDATE: Er, no, I’m quite wrong on this point: see this post in the comments. Apologies, I should have double-checked.) Well, there is in one sense: the precedent that the ethics committee set, when it let Mulroney testify without putting him under oath — again, a privilege that was not extended to other witnesses, one in particular.

Why are we doing this? Why the special treatment? Especially for a witness who has shown on other occasions that he could be less than wholly truthful…

INSTADATER: And there’s this, equally perplexing moment:

“What’s left out there, is a suspicion, because there are lot of suspicions … and I want to clear up that suspicion,” Wolson said.

Schreiber confirmed that the meeting was about a man who was a mutual acquaintance of Schreiber and Mulroney who was having some personal difficulties and that they were trying to see if they could help the man.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the matters before this inquiry,” Wolson said.

“No,” Schreiber said.

As Norm Spector writes:

Since when does a witness — or even the chief counsel — have the right to decide what is relevant and what is not to the work of a commission set up by the government? Is that not the prerogative of the Chairperson? And, unless there are compelling privacy concerns at play, shouldn’t the identity of the “mutual acquaintance” be known to Canadians, in order that we, too, can form our own opinions about the relevance of the secret meeting to the work of the commission?

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.