So, are we all rested and refreshed from the long weekend, and ready for another day of rock’em-sock’em cross-examination? ITQ hopes so, since this will likely be the grand finale for commission counsel Richard Wolson, who is expected to wrap up his grilling of the former prime minister today. What’s not clear, however, is whether Mulroney will be heading back to Montreal after today’s appearance. After all, at least one other lawyer — Richard Auger, counsel to the convalescing Karlheinz Schreiber – has indicated that he will have a few followup questions for the right honourable witness.
Well, my goodness – and good morning, of course, Oliphantologists – if not for my carefully reserved seat, I might have been relegated to the bleachers, alongside Team Navigator’s crack twitter truth squad, because there is a remarkably heavy media turnout at Old City Hall today. That’s likely at least partly due to the gaping hole in the political news-generating machine brought on by the parliamentary break — yes, the kids are back in the ridings for the week; govern yourselves accordingly — but it’s also looking like Richard Auger – Schreiber’s lawyer, in case you’ve forgotten – may get to begin *his* cross-examination of the former prime minister this afternoon. Right now, we’re actually experiencing a brief delay — 25 minutes or so, we’ve been told — due to some sort of flight cancellation mishap that befell the judge. No word on his knee, but I’ll keep you posted.
And more breaking news — apparently, Schreiber may not be well enough to take the stand on Thursday, which means — well, we don’t know what it means, really, other than that there is a distinct possibility that this may not be the last week of public hearings. Also, I can report that Auger has assembled a veritable fortress of folders, binders and loose-leaf documents, which suggests that his cross-examination may go considerably longer than we expected.
Alright, places, everybody!
Hey, where’s the witness? Shouldn’t he standing behind his chair, gazing at the crowd and basking in the adoration of his cheering section?
Ah, there we go — here he comes, accompanied by what looks suspiciously more than nine attendants, although in fairness, not *all* of them may be lawyers; some are likely PR-tistes.
And – there’s the judge. All rise! And Mr. Yarosky is at the podium instead of Guy Pratte, which is always a treat, especially when it turns out that he is here to bring glad tidings: the first Inquiry Baby has been born. Congratulations to the Lacasse family!
Now onto less cheerful business — the health report, delivered by Richard Wolson, who informs the court that Schreiber is home, but likely will not be able to testify on Thursday, although he’ll keep us posted.
Next, the judge apologizes for the delay — apparently, the airlines conspired against him, but it was *not* an Airbus (insert giggles here). Mulroney notes that the service was much better when *he* was in office, and – that’s it for the preamble. Now, the meat!
Wolson starts out by – hey, Colleague Coyne must be pleased; he gets Mulroney to confirm that the money he received was in Canadian dollars, and he never brought it back to this country; the RHFPM also points out that the reporting requirements related to bringing cash into the country weren’t in force at the time.
Wolson then goes over the period that the retainer — the money in the envelopes — covered, as well as when he declared it — when it was appropriate as per Mulroney — and then moves onto where the money was kept, and the fact that some of the money was used for “expenses”. Mulroney says “approximately” $45,000 was used for expenses, and it all came from the Montreal safe. Mulroney repeats that he didn’t use the money “until it was mine”; he claimed no expenses from the income, and paid tax on all of it.
Off to the June 3 meeting – after a quick confirmation of the previous meetings – as well as an all-encompassing question about whether he had any *other* business dealings with Schreiber, either directly or through third parties, now or in the past. It’s a “safe assumption”, Mulroney tells him, that he does not.
And now, William Kaplan! Or, at least, a Kaplancentric binder, starting with a note from December 1997, which Kaplan wrote during the preparation of “Presumed Guilty”, which states that Mulroney told him he knew Schreiber in a “peripheral” way, and the “limited extent” to which he knew him was that he was involved with the Alberta PCs, as well as Bear Head. Mulroney confirms that this is probably what he said, but points out that he doesn’t know what the context was, or what question he was asked.
Anyway, back to the Sheppard interrogation, in which Mulroney said that, on the “infrequent occasions” that he met Schreiber, it was related to the Thyssen project. Mulroney notes that his answer was more, and reads the rest of his response; Wolson tells him that he was actually only interested in the bit about “infrequent” occasions, not the rest.
Wolson notes that Mulroney knew that Kaplan was a lawyer, a writer and a “legal historian” — the last of which seems to come as a surprise to the witness. Lavoie, Wolson notes, told Kaplan that Mulroney had a “high regard” for him — Mulroney points out that the use of the past tense is key there. Yes, one suspects the feeling may be mutual.
Somehow, Wolson asked a question that allowed Mulroney to launch into The Rant About Stevie Cameron — he manages to stop him pretty early on, but it’s clear that Mulroney either hasn’t picked up on, or has decided not to notice the very heavy hints the commission counsel is giving as far as how much more it wants to hear along *that* line. Mulroney agrees that he had a “friendly” relationship with Kaplan – again, I’m guessing the verb tense is critical there – and then directs the witness to another tab, which takes some time, as it turns out; at the bottom of *that* page, Kaplan’s notes from October 24, 2003, has Mulroney telling him that if he – Kaplan – wants his continued support and friendship, he can’t be an enemy at the same time, which, as per Wolson, leads into Kaplan’s claim that Mulroney tried to persuade him not to write about the subsequent information that had (or was about to) come out. Mulroney would like to clarify that Kaplan, too, never actually asked him if he had a commercial relationship with Schreiber during the work he did on the book; when he asked him in preparation for the Globe series he eventually wrote, Mulroney points out, he gave him the correct answer.
It was a three part series, Mulroney recalls, but there was originally a fourth part, but for some “mysterious” reason, it was never published. This, plus all the other “relevant” material that has never appeared, left Mulroney “very disappointed”, and was the catalyst for the — oh, Mulroney is going on and on about what Schreiber said at the time. He agreed with Mulroney, if that helps.
Back to the Kaplan notes, and Mulroney’s comment that he had “got the impression” that Kaplan was going to write about him and Schreiber, which Kaplan told him was part of the story. Mulroney then apparently told Kaplan that it was not, in fact, part of the story — oh, we journalists love it when an interview tells us that what we’re writing isn’t a real story — a “big red herring”, and to write about it would “please Stevie Cameron”, and — seriously, he’s doing it *again*. Come on, guys – you have to rein this guy in or he’ll rant about Stevie Cameron and the vast conspiracy against him until the end of time.
Hey, so apparently, Mulroney *didn’t* ask for this inquiry — at least, not in its current form; what he had in mind was some sort of Commission of Inquiry into Stevie Cameron, the Liberal Government, The RCMP, All the Prime Ministers, The Media And Everyone Else Who Was So Awful To That Poor Brian Mulroney. “Put ’em all in a box,” he snarls. “Interrogate them all.” Especially the journalists, apparently. Maybe he’ll demand an inquiry into *this* inquiry.
Wolson reminds Mulroney that, as much fun as that would have been, this is the inquiry that is actually ongoing, and Oliphant then intervenes to ask Mulroney about his “red herring” comments – that it was a “false accusation”, and that there was “nothing there”. Was he referring to his relationship with Schreiber? No, it was the “implication” that the payments were somehow related to Airbus.
Wolson makes a valiant effort to retake control of the interview — “I wish you would just listen to my questions,” he laments; well, now that he knows you’ll let him go off on an anti-Cameronian tear whenever he wants, he’s hardly going to stop — and notes that, in another interview with Kaplan, Mulroney said that he had declared the income, and paid the taxes; Mulroney confirms that he referred the matter to his tax advisors in 1999, and they “resolved the matter”, at which point, the cheques were issued. He declared what he was advised by the tax attorneys – he had “no involvement”. Enter Guy Pratte, who would like to note that the facts are clear that the tax authorities were told that the total was $225,000, but the negotiations resulted in additions of $37,000. “That’s the amount on which tax was paid,” Oliphant wonders, “If he had earned $75,000 and declared it in the year he got it, he would have paid tax on all of it, yet he wound up paying tax on less than half.
Pratte warns him – in a friendly way – that this is venturing into the territory he addressed in one of his earlier motions; the tax authorities were “fully aware” of the total received by “the taxpayer”, and this followed the practice prevalent in the province of Quebec. Oliphant tells him he didn’t see any “innuendo” in the question asked by Wolson, who finally now gets to ask Mulroney if he was aware that he had declared $37,500. No, he wasn’t – his advisors told him it was resolved, and that was it.
An interesting side issue, or rather “an inadvertantly inaccurate statement” by Mulroney; he said at one point that the money for the Schreiber work would have shown up on the books of his private consulting firm, Canfor, but for some reason, it didn’t. So – there you go.
Onto Britan, and when Mulroney found out about it, which he *thinks* was in 1999, the same morning before the fifth estate was planning to broadcast a report alleging that Britan was Brian, which elicited a letter from Schreiber’s lawyer, Eddie Greenspon, who told the CBC that to do would be “wrong”. Wolson wonders when he found out that Britan *was* Brian, and Mulroney denies ever knowing such a thing, so vehemently and with such detail that Wolson is forced to once again remind him to *focus on the question*. Really, I do feel sorry for him; you know that if he tries to interrupt Mulroney, it will result in an instant up-popping by Pratte. It’s enough to make you wish for the system they use at committee, where the chair can order the techs to cut the mics of determinedly overloquacious members.
Wolson has now made multiple attempts to get Mulroney to simply answer the question of whether he called Kaplan “several times” to try to persuade him not to publish the story, and Mulroney will only say that he had numerous conversations with Kaplan during that time period, but since most of the notes are redacted, it can’t be definitively stated that it was the *purpose* of the calls. Wolson does say that Kaplan’s testimony – that Mulroney “encouraged” him not to run with the story – is not inaccurate. They would have “fairly general conversations”.
Finally, with some effort, Wolson manages to drag Mulroney to 2003, and notes that it might have “added to his anxiety” if the reports of the money had been made public at that time; Mulroney agrees, but not really – this was, after all, an “innocent” transaction, it was “above board”, and he probably should have gone along with the advice proferred by Lavoie, and put it out himself at that point.
Wolson, however, points him to yet another note, which suggests that Lavoie told Kaplan that, when the innocent, above board transaction was uncovered, Mulroney “panicked”, and was “so afraid of the information coming out” that he kept it secret.
Did Mulroney panic? No, he didn’t – at least, that’s what he says now – that was an “infelicitous” choice of phrase – yes, he wanted to keep a private transaction private, but there was nothing about it that was wrong.
Well, how about that? Wolson just asked about that very same claim by Mulroney that “he knew who Britan was”, and – after hemming and hawing – Mulroney says that as *he* understood it — and this was from Schreiber, I gather — it was “Breton”, and referred to a “prominent individual in Cape Breton”, who he won’t name now, since he doesn’t want *that* person to be dragged through the mud.
Wolson – who seems to be losing patience with the witness – wants to go back to Mulroney’s contemporaneous claim that what Phil Mathias knew was “mostly false” – what was false? He *had* taken money from Schreiber – it was legal. Mulroney resorts to passive aggressive parsing; *he* was referring to Mathias’ belief that Britan was Brian; somehow, it’s all the fifth estate’s fault.
Wolson is definitely turning up the heat – this is similar to what happened during his last day of cross-examining Schreiber; he gently gathers all the loose ends of testimony, and, without warning, pulls them in, leaving the witness caught in a cat’s cradle.
Oh, and Mulroney points out “in fairness to Kaplan” that, when he eventually wrote his article, he determined that the former PM had received less money than received; it was for legitimate work – and he even paid the taxes. He – Kaplan – also noted that the government lawyers never asked him the question, and determined that there had been “no dishonesty” in Mulroney’s previous testimony. Wolson instructs him to “look carefully” at the tab — where Mulroney assured Kaplan that everything he did was “honest and aboveboard”, yet – and Wolson reminds Mulroney, he’s talking about *the money* – on what basis would he “make a lawsuit”? What’s it going to be? Mulroney suggests that “the amount was inaccurate” — seems as though a clarification would suffice if that was the case — and Wolson has the Crossed Arms of Quit Stalling And Answer The Question. Mulroney insists that the false statements were that he was paid $300,000, on four occasions. Oliphant then gets Mulroney to admit that this is, in fact, the “main inaccuracy” – which he does, somewhat sulkily – and Wolson swings back by noting that he didn’t tell Kaplan that he got $225,000 — which prompts Mulroney to challenge his assertion, and – oh, right when it was getting lively, Pratte jumped up to once again helpfully note that Kaplan has said that Mulroney “never denied” that there was a commercial relationship “when confronted with the information”.
Pratte and Wolson are now debating whether it’s fair to ask Mulroney about the Kaplan notes, when Kaplan himself already testified. The judge – oh, he’s impossible to read, really, which is probably wise – but Pratte – who has now deployed the phrase “crystal clear” on at least a half dozen occasions this morning – just wants to make sure that — I don’t know what, exactly. That we all know that Kaplan *was*, in fact, asked about this, and has not contradicted his claim that Mulroney did not deny that money changed hands.
Meanwhile, Mulroney explains that *he* thought Kaplan’s questions were “all about Britan”, but insists that he did not deny anything. So, Wolson sums up, Mulroney thought it was all about Britan.
I guess we’re not going to get a midmorning break today, huh?
Mulroney claims that the “wrong slant” that Kaplan had ostensibly gotten — or been given — was all part of Schreiber’s opening game, and based on “the testimony of a blackmailer”.
And — oh, for heaven’s sake, he’s gone walkabout again. The witness, that is, who would like everyone to know that he has been more investigated than any prime minister in Canadian history, and has been vindicated; even this inquiry is based on a “false affidavit” that named not only him, but also the *current* prime minister, and threw all and sundry into a panic.
Wolson – who now seems to be trying to ignore the melodramatic asides to the judge, or “m’lord” as Mulroney occasionally addresses him – wonders about Kaplan’s recollection of Mulroney admitting then we first left office, money *was* an issue, which Mulroney – after the usual legacy-buffing treacle about how his prospects turned out to be even more successful than he had expected – had experienced temporary cash flow problems, and – but — Wolson finally gets the mic back — is the statement accurate that he “needed money quite badly”? Probably not would seem to be the answer. That one, he really doesn’t remember.
Finally, one last note on one last meeting, at which Kaplan claims to have been “exhausted” by the effort of putting together the series while working his day job, as well as the pressure from Mulroney not to go ahead with the article. It was the first time in all the years they’d known each other – Mulroney and Kaplan, that is – that the former prime minister had ever told him the discussion “was not an interview”; the two reviewed the transcript, and “talked about honour”: Mulroney wasn’t the only one with honour at stake, Kaplan noted, but simply told him that he “regretted any inconvenience that he may have caused”. Is that accurate? Mulroney would rather talk about Kaplan’s eventual conclusion – that he was never asked – instead of, you know, *answering the question*. Mulroney does agree that it was an “emotional conversation” – but if someone was telling Kaplan that there was perjury in the transcript, “he’d been sold a bill of goods.” Wolson, however, still wants him to respond to the question, and Mulroney tells him he has no recollection of that at all. Also, there were *four* articles, and Mulroney had been “counting very heavily” on the fourth, which never appeared.
Lesson for journalists, investigative, legal historian and otherwise: Never, ever specify the number of stories you plan to write. It doesn’t end well.
Wolson points out that Kaplan was never asked about the now infamous fourth story when he testified before the commission — not even by Mulroney’s lawyers — and Mulroney wonders why he didn’t *volunteer* it, as such an advocate of voluntary disclosure of information.
When Mulroney goes off on a tangent about the word “peripheral”, Oliphant reminds him that he made the point before, and warns him that it doesn’t need to be made again.
Two more quickies, and then we get a break, apparently — but I suspect Wolson will be back after lunch, which means it will be tricky for Auger to finish *his* cross-examination today. Wolson reads more from Wolson’s notes, and Mulroney – who has been openly derisive of the notion that Kaplan was pained by both the revelations regarding the money, and stressed out by the pressure to prevent publication – pretty much denies having any recollection of any of it, and then goes off on a self-serving ramble about Charter rights, and how they apply to former prime ministers not having to answer questions that haven’t been asked in court.
And — let That Rant About The Whole Airbus Deal And The Massive Libel Against Him And His Family And His Father’s Good Name begin. You’ve all heard it, so I’ll spare you. Oh, except now, the Justice department “threw out” poor Roger Tasse — just like Tellier threw out Schreiber and Fred Doucet? — rather than just ignoring him. Also, Stevie Cameron? Don’t get him started. Seriously, please don’t. (That goes out to you in particular, counsel.)
Wolson has one more question — I’m not sure if that is in general, or before the break: Does the witness believe that a prime minister must respect the public trust while in office? Yes, he does. Does he believe that a prime minister must respect the public trust “shortly after leaving office”? Yes, with a long and somewhat defensive explanation of how, as far as he is aware, Mulroney has never done anything wrong in his life.
And – yes, Wolson has a few more questions, so we’re going to take the morning break. He – Wolson – would like to finish *his* questions today; he’s on day three, and figures the witness could stand seeing him sit down and be quiet. Mulroney rather crankily observes that there has been “a lot of re-asking of questions”, and wonders when he and his wife can go back to leading their lives, and Wolson tells him that he has another twenty pages of questions. He hopes to finish today, but — yeah.
Oliphant asks whether Wolson wants a short break, and then come back, or a shorter lunch break, and come back at 1pm. He also wonders what further area Wolson wants to cover regarding the articles, because he – Oliphant – is concerned about learning about this *fourth* article, which has apparently caught everyone by surprise. Oliphant notes that Mulroney has told the commission that he doesn’t get draft copies of articles, which makes him wonder how he knew about the fourth article, and Mulroney hems and haws – he heard about it from “third parties”, and – ooh, Mulroney *doesn’t know for sure*, but “given the nature of the information that they had”, you could assume that a fourth article would appear. Aha. So — yeah. Oliphant notes that this is a different matter — does Mulroney know there was a fourth article, or did he assume it? The answer appears to be the latter.
“You never saw a fourth article in rough draft or manuscript?” No, he didn’t. In other words – well, maybe Kaplan will weigh in on that, because it sounds like that fourth article may not have “mysteriously” failed to appear at all, because it never existed in the first part.
Wolson notes that one of the articles that did appear/exist does include the points about Mulroney admitting that the money was paid, but that it attributes it to the pasta venture. In any case, Mulroney reminds him, Schreiber confirmed that it was Perfectly Legal, and the transcript was perjury-free.
We’re adjourned for five minutes while the lawyers work out the schedule for the rest of the day, and the rest of us try to figure out exactly what the heck was going through Mulroney’s head when he decided to debut his theory on the fourth article while under cross-examination by commission counsel. Because – wow.
Okay, apparently, it’s taking a little bit longer than expected for the lawyers to agree on the timeline for this afternoon.
And — here we go. If we can finish today by 6pm — all parties — that will, presumably, be it, and Mulroney won’t have to come back, but at the moment, Wolson isn’t sure how much time he’ll need – he’s finished 8 of 28 pages, prompting Oliphant to wonder, 6pm on what *day*, exactly. The judge says that’s okay by him, but it is *crucial* that *no* counsel feel “hurried” during cross-examination; we’re now going to break until 1:30, and then we’ll reassess later this afternoon if there’s any reason to go until 6pm.
I’m betting no, but we’ll see. Anyway, back in an hour – see you then!
Back in the hearing room — remember, we’re resuming a half hour earlier than usual, in (what ITQ suspects will be) an (ultimately futile) attempt to wrap up both Wolson and Auger’s cross-examinations by this evening; given the judge’s comments before breaking for lunch, I suspect that’s not likely to happen — not if the witness continues *his* efforts to eat up as much time as possible with lengthy, self-serving answers to questions that were never asked.
What he – Mulroney, that is – seems to have forgotten is that the schedule isn’t actually cast in stone, as far as when he will be excused from the stand: he’s already gone one day over, and until every party present has the chance to question him to their respective satisfaction, he’ll be here as long as necessary. Unless, of course, his legal team has some sort of surprise reverse-twist defence that will knock the commission off its feet, but I don’t really know what that would be.
In any case, the room is filling back up, although there’s no sign of the witness yet. I saw Guy Pratte in the cafeteria during the lunch break, and for the first time ever, he actually looked — tired. It was eerie. Not that ITQ can talk, of course; an exceptionally ill-timed bout of insomnia, coupled with an early morning radio gig, resulted in just two hours of restless sleep for your poor liveblogger, who is even now armed with the remains of a bag of two-bite brownies and her trusty Diet Coke.
ITQ TieWatch Award goes to — Roitenberg, for, I believe, the second time since the public hearings began. It’s a standard pink-and-brown-horizontal-striped number, but somehow, it works particularly well with his suit, and like certain former prime ministers, ITQ believes that context should always be taken into account.
Also, I can’t figure out if Mulroney’s lawyers stand when he enters the room, or if that’s just their queue to get on their collective feet in anticipation of the judge. I really hope it’s the latter.
Hurray, we’re back! And we’re off to a whole new area – what services Mulroney performed for Schreiber. Wolson wonders whether there were other services provided following the New York meeting, and Mulroney says there were — a second meeting with Francois Mitterand in October 1995, and — wait, is that all? One meeting for $75,000? Huh.
Wolson notes that Schreiber has said that the retainer was for domestic work, not international — “false,” Mulroney says — he’s either coming down with a cold, or he has a frog in his throat — or he’s just hoarse after so much speechifying. Anyway, he maintains that he was not trying to get communist countries to buy the Thyssen vehicles, he was working through the United Nations to see if there was a market.
Anyway, now we’re off to the China trip; apparently there are documents — oh, an agenda, I think — detailing that trip, although these are, Wolson notes, redacted to protect the privacy of the main client, who shall apparently still remain nameless. The work had to do with – oh, apparently it had *something* to do with “hydroelectric”, but there were other issues, and at one point, he raised Schreiber’s business with Chinese officials. They flew over by private plane and back by commercial airline – and yet, still, he claimed $10-12,000 in expenses from the bundle of Schreibercash – and the itinerary was fairly tightly packed.
The first opportunity he would have had to raise Bear Head was during a two hour meeting with CITIC, the largest government-controlled company in China; there were various Chinese officials at the luncheon, but, Wolson wonders, does he *specifically* remember raising Schreiber’s business? No, it turns out – not at that meeting – but this was a political-business organization, and later, he was invited to join the board of directors. Wait, that’s not even close to an answer to the question. Whatever; Wolson plows on to another meeting, a day later, with still more Chinese government officials, and there, Mulroney *does* recall raising the Bear Head issue. From what he recalls, he wanted to find out what China thought about the “UN concept” — an informal discussion.”As the Chinese always are,” he notes, they were “non-committal”, and possibly inscrutable as well, although he doesn’t mention that. But he insists the idea wasn’t to sell arms to China — perish the thought! — but to the United Nations, as some sort of “united peacekeeping front”, as Wolson puts it. Did Mulroney ever describe any of this — shall we say *high concept* campaign to the Ethics committee? Because I don’t recall it coming up. Anyway, Mulroney planned to bring it to the UN Secretary General’s attention, with the idea that he would pass it onto the Security Council.
Wolson gets Mulroney to lay out in detail the various discussions that he had on behalf of his *other* clients, and how, exactly, the project would work – nothing terribly new, except for the revelation that he did not, sadly, engage in said discussions with the then-Canadian ambassador, Fred Bild — that is sad because, as it turns out, he will be on the witness list tomorrow, and just imagine how wonderfully he could have confirmed Mulroney’s story. If he’d been there, that is, which is wasn’t.
Anyway, all that work was abruptly interrupted by Airbus – oh, Airbus, you thwarted a thrilling potential development in the practice of international peacekeeping – and – oh, we’re suddenly back to pasta, and what Mulroney told, in Wolson’s words, “another forum” as far as the work he did for Schreiber on *that* front as well.
In retrospect, Mulroney admits, he thinks that perhaps the pasta project *was* intended to be covered by the retainer, but that’s not what he thought at the time, although he does recollect that Elmer MacKay – an investor, and a close friend of Schreiber – may have made the call to McDonald’s. Wolson tells him that, when the commission lawyers heard that the other day, they checked Schreiber’s phone records, and found a number of calls between Mulroney and Schreiber between 1994 and 1997.
Wolson tries to be helpful, and puts a few of Schreiber’s diary entries on the record that seem to back up Mulroney’s statement as far as his later contact between himself and Schreiber, particularly on the pasta venture, and Mulroney cautiously confirms that yes, indeed, there appears to be notes that suggest Schreiber at the very least had planned, on several occasions, to phone Mulroney “re: McDonald’s.”
Somehow, this leads to Wolson assuring Mulroney that they “don’t have to go back to Mr. Fiegenwald”, and the judge pipes up to note that they *also* don’t have to go back to Stevie Cameron, or any of the other points that the former prime minister has made so very clearly, and forcefully, and frequently. “It was eloquent the first time,” Oliphant assures him, and didn’t get any better the second, or third, or fourth — and Mulroney attempts to get cute, and suggests that he understands that the judge doesn’t appreciate “repetitive questioning”, prompting Oliphant to smilingly, but no-nonsensically, suggest that he quit while he’s ahead.
With that out of the way, it’s off to – Russia and Cyprus. Oh boy! More details on that meeting with Yeltsin!
Wolson goes over the details of the meeting that Mulroney first described during the main examination – remember? First Yeltsin thought he was trying to sell *him* on the vehicles, and admitted somewhat sorrowfully that he was broke. Anyway, Mulroney didn’t claim any expenses when he paid the tax, but he thinks he paid approximately $12,000 in expenses.
And — snap goes the Wolson Fly Trap, who once again points out that Mulroney has told the commission that he took roughly the same amount from the retainer to cover China expenses; he did have an inventory of the charges, but it has since been destroyed. By him. He then had two subsequent meetings with Mitterand – in 1994 and 1995, the latter of which Wolson hadn’t heard about before today. You’d think Pratte would have asked him about it, wouldn’t you?
So, turns out that the 1995 meeting was basically a quick chat between fellow attendee/former leaders in Colorado Springs at an event related to the Bush presidential library. He didn’t bother chatting with Margaret Thatcher, who was also there, and he doesn’t recall any specific conversations about the potential buy with James Baker, although he discussed UN issues in general; he was seeing his “wise counsel”. He had just stepped down – rather like Mitterand – which gives us a little bit of insight into the lives of retired world leaders that makes me feel a little bit sorrier for all concerned.
Secretary Caspar Weinberger, meanwhile, told him that this would be a “tough one” for the Americans, and — we’ve heard this story before, I think; Weinberger discussed how very, very strong Mulroney’s relationship was with the various administrations, and suggested that he could *make it happen* – get the Americans to open up to a Canadian partner. Wait, except this *wasn’t* going to be a Canadian project, because Bear Head was dead — he killed it. Or did I imagine that part?
And then – the Letter of Request came out. DUM-dum.
I can’t tell, y’all – is Mulroney actually starting to using a *tone* when confronted with Wolson’s markedly more forceful attempts to keep him from meandering off down memory lane in his replies? Because it sounds tone-y to me. He’s discussing the 1998 Zurich meeting now – remember? The salmon? – which, from Schreiber’s datebook, seems to have been from 12:30 until a limo picked him up at 2pm. At the time, Mulroney was nursing a “frozen shoulder”, and was in exquisite pain – yet he still managed to find the time to meet with Schreiber. When had he last seen Schreiber? At the Pierre Hotel in 1994.
Wolson notes that as per Schreiber’s account, Mulroney looked “nervous”, although he adds that Mulroney was also in pain – the witness bristles a little; according to Paul Therrien, he looked just fine, and Schreiber’s claim that he – Mulroney – wanted to discuss their arrangement was entirely inaccurate.
So – why *did* he meet with him?
According to Mulroney, it was because both he and Schreiber – who, remember, Mulroney thought was a legitimate, responsible businessman – had been “knocked” by the Airbus allegations, and up until now, he had been an objective ally.
Hey, was that the first and only Schreiber-Mulroney meeting that *Mulroney* arranged, and wasn’t the result of an invitation from Schreiber via Fred Doucet?
Wolson notes that the Savoy is “an expensive hotel”, and Mulroney reminds him that he was in Zurich for the World Gold Corporation, which looked after him well.
Page update – Wolson has made it to 15, and Mulroney wants to know how many are left to go — when he finds out that it’s out of 28, he suggests going to 3pm, and that seems to satisfy all sides.
Off, now, to 1999, and Schreiber’s arrest, and the criminal charges. If that hadn’t happened, Wolson wonders, would he have declared the income? That’s a hypothetical, Mulroney tells him – he was under retainer – apparently it ended in December of that year, partly because of the criminal charges, and doesn’t that make it a circular response? As is Mulroney’s contention that he didn’t have to declare the income until then, but since he decided when “then” was, doesn’t that — oh, never mind. I’m sure it will all become “crystal clear” soon.
Now he’s referring to himself in the third party, and his suspicion that Schreiber “was going to create an income tax problem for Brian Mulroney”. But didn’t Brian Mulroney perhaps inadvertently create that problem for Brian Mulroney by taking money without a conventional paper trail? I guess that’s up for debate.
Before beginning a series of questions on the fifth estate, Wolson reminds the witness that he doesn’t need to hear Mulroney’s opinion on the fifth estate – he’s well aware of it. That said, he directs Mulroney to the transcript, which he claims never to have read.
When Wolson suggests that, given the kerfuffle stirred up by the fifth estate, Mulroney could depend on Fred Doucet – Fred would have his back – but the witness isn’t happy with that particular characterization; Fred would support him as far as the truth would allow.
As for the “memorialization” of the mandate letter, Mulroney doesn’t seem to have known anything about it at the time, although he *does* recall that Doucet “told him his concerns” regarding Schreiber. He did not, however, know that Doucet was planning to meet with Schreiber on Boxing Day 1999 – he didn’t, although he was debriefed – or the subsequent meeting at the Royal York, and was advised that Schreiber was upset with Luc Lavoie, and his “words to the effect” that Schreiber “wasn’t very forthright”.
And with that, we break for fifteen minutes. We’re on page sixteen! Maybe he *will* get through this by 6!
Okay, it turns out I may have gotten a little bit ahead of myself — or ahead of the page count, at least – because nobody seems to think there’s much chance that we’ll finish with Mulroney today, which I suspect is going to turn our witness distinctly hostile, since he seems to be nearing the end of his patience with Wolson. It’s interesting how, every now and then, he stops responding to counsel and speaks directly to the commissioner; it’s as though he’s trying to establish some sort of buddy-buddy bond between the two of them.
And – hey, we’re back! Rise, sit, and onto the January 11, 2000 meeting — you remember, the one that he took such incredibly detailed notes, with apparently verbatim transcription of the back-and-forth of the conversation. Wolson notes that a day earlier, the first letter had gone forward from Mulroney’s tax advisors to Revenue Canada.
Anyway, Wolson reads an excerpt from the notes – apparently, it also came up during Pratte’s questioning – and wonders if Mulroney knew that Doucet began asking Schreiber what he might say under oath.
“Let us imagine, KS,” Doucet began “what you had in mind when you came to me” with the initial idea for the Mirabel meeting. Mulroney concurs with the account, but denies knowing that Doucet was planning to ask him those questions – or being debriefed, although he hastens to make it clear that he isn’t *contradicting* Doucet; if the notes say he called Mulroney to tell him about the meeting, he would. It was, after all, Doucet who had first called him to meet with Schreiber.
More about the mandate letter – oh, so much more – with more cautious confirmation from Mulroney, who clearly doesn’t hanker to contradict Doucet, but is willing to back up his account of the meetings, which – he tells the commission – were arranged because Doucet smelt a rat, as far as some of Schreiber’s then-recent statements about Mulroney possibly having a “tax problem”, and, perhaps more unsettlingly, a potential *perjury* problem.
Onto the mandate letter — and apologies for the disjointedness; WordPress is being cranky, and the berry is being crashy, and clearly, we all desperately need a nap. Anyway, Wolson’s main point seems to be that all of this was going on at the same time that the voluntary tax disclosure was being negotiated, and Mulroney is definitely getting testy over what he apparently views as overquestioning.
Mulroney says he was aware of the “main body” of the mandate letter, but not the specifics — like the names of all those companies that, according to Doucet, were handwritten by Schreiber, but according to the latter, appears there “as a miracle”.
There’s an interesting burst of denial when Mulroney thinks Wolson is suggesting that he *signed* the document — his initials are there, it’s true, but he tells the commission that he *never* signed it; turns out nobody is implying he did; the initials were added by Doucet, and – wait, if he never signed the mandate letter, how can it be considered a valid document?
Wow, I may be about to run out of battery, too — literally, not metaphorically. Has it been an especially long day? Or did the berry suffer a bout of insomnia too? Anyway, Wolson directs the witness back to Doucet’s testimony before the commission, noting that he made “no changes” to the letter – with which Mulroney agrees – including reducing the total amount to $250,000 – as opposed to $225,000, which – as per Mulroney – was the *real* sum. So why not correct him, Wolson wonders – prompting Mulroney to remind him that he never *saw* the document; Doucet read it to him over the phone, and Mulroney recalled that Schreiber had now changed the amount, which he’d initially given as $300,000, but he thought perhaps he had a “different” way of calculating expenses and that sort of thing. Besides, he had terminated the retainership in December — did he ever let Schreiber know that? — so it wasn’t a major issue.
But if he was so keep on “memorializing” the relationship, Wolson keeps terriering away, why not make sure the amount was right? Because he was more concerned about the *mandate* — not the payments.
Why does Fred Doucet seem to have been so much more — invested in this mandate letter than Mulroney, who was actually *involved* in it? “He was just doing this on your account,” Wolson says, prompting a “That’s wrong” from Mulroney — *he* initiated it. “That’s fair to say,” he insists — to the commissioner, not Wolson — it was all Doucet’s idea, although he thought it was a good one.
Wolson doesn’t fight him on it – but notes that Mulroney was “trying to put himself back in his original position”. The former prime minister notes that Schreiber didn’t correct Doucet on the $250,000, which he had maintained was $300,000; had he signed it, Mulroney notes, those “small errors” would have been corrected.
Okay, I’m trying to figure out how many pages are left in Wolson’s binder, but it’s tricky — every now and then, one of the other lawyers runs up with a new sheet.
Wait, are we on a new topic? Wolson notes that Mulroney has told the inquiry that he never dealt in cash with any other international consultancy; he lists some of the other companies with which he was doing business — Barrick Gold, Petrofina, Archers Daniel Midland — circa 1993/94. Wolson has a list of most of them, and goes through the names, one by one – all these, he notes, were international; did they pay him by cheque? Yes. Yes; they did.
Tax matters! Yes, we’re back at taxes, and expenses: Wolson notes that, according to Mulroney’s testimony, his expenses for Schreiber-related work was approximately $45,000; it’s a basic rule of accounting that one deducts expenses, yet he did not. Why? Mulroney doesn’t really have an answer — he told his tax advisors to deal with the government, and was eventually presented with the conclusions. And when he *paid* those taxes, Wolson reminds him, he “disposed” of the records of those expenses. Is it not “basic business acumen,” he wonders, that when one has in one’s pocket, safe or deposit box, that you *invest* that money and earn interest, yes? Not during the last year, Mulroney points out – but yes, in general; the rate was approximately 5% back then, and that was “money lost” by failing to invest.
We’re still on taxes — maybe Wolson *will* finish up this afternoon, but I can’t imagine Auger will be so succinct as to be able to squeeze his cross examination in before 6pm.
Oh, and Mulroney explains again how retainers work, as far as tax policy; they don’t have to be declared until they’re “taken in” as income, which is what he did — although he didn’t claim that $45,000 as expenses, because he wasn’t sure he had sufficient documentation.
Wolson notes that *another* practice would be to “reserve” the $225,000, and Mulroney doesn’t disagree, although that wasn’t what *he* did.
Oh, there’s Pratte – I was wondering when he’d take the stand. He wants to put on the record that these questions may touch on the question of compliance, and he has an objection in reserve. “We’re getting into whether his belief was accurate under the Income Tax Act,” he notes, so he’d just like to remind the commissioner that this falls under his umbrella objection. Oliphant muses that he hasn’t sensed any implication that there was a lack of *compliance* with the Act.
Wolson, for his part, shoots back that there are more issues than compliance; “it’s a factor in other ways”, but he’d rather not go into detail with the witness present. See, you guys? There’s a plan! Just like Lost!
Now that Pratte has made everyone aware of the fact that he may be objecting to all of this tax-related evidence later – June 10th, apparently, may be the magic day – he’s satisfied to sit down, which leaves Wolson in control of the floor. He wonders why Mulroney didn’t take a *fee* for his services from the retainer — as he understood it, by doing all this through a voluntary disclosure – which are used by *thousands* of Canadians, every year – there was no acceptance of culpability, and – with the ghost of a glare directed at either Oliphant or Wolson, it’s not clear – he *really believes* he should be allowed to say this.
“Focus on the particular question I asked,” Wolson reminds him — which is about China, as it happens. He didn’t understand, he suggests, that he should — oh, and now they’re speaking over each other, and Mulroney is calling Wolson “sir” and assuring him that he doesn’t want to “quarrel with him”, and you just know this won’t end well.
Ahh, okay, that’s where Wolson was going with that scrupulously careful lead-in — if this was a three year retainer, it would have ended in 1995 or 1996 — not 1999. Why didn’t Mulroney declare it *then*? Why, because of Airbus, of course – because it “blew us up” and was very nearly “the end of [his] life”. That’s why. A little more probing into letters between Mulroney’s tax lawyer and Revenue Canada, which brings Pratte to his feet *again* to sorta-claim solicitor-client privilege. Oliphant wonders whether privilege was waived by *introducing* the letter, but eventually seems to agree. “Fine,” he says.
Wolson wonders if there was any *other* document — other than the mandate letter — that mentioned the three year term, and Mulroney isn’t sure; he just assumed it was three years, because of the payment structure, but perhaps Schreiber thought it extended further, he acknowledges; after all, Schreiber came to him with the pasta pitch in 1998.
Somehow, the fact that Mulroney didn’t sign the “embryonic attempt at reconstructing a mandate” — that would be the *one document* that sets out the arrangement between the two men, and really, who does business that way? — seems to, in his mind, relieve him of any requirement to answer questions about it. Was it ever intended to prove anything? Anyway, the former prime minister would like us all to know that he paid his taxes, and he feels he did it in the right way, and he did so with the agreement of the government of Canada, and – so there. Also, he told his advisors that if there was *any* doubt, they should resolve it in favour of the governments of Quebec and/or Canada, because that’s just how scrupulous and rule-abiding he is.
Oh, now the retainer payments were “on hiatus” during the period when he was in litigation – yeah, I don’t know exactly how that worked either – which is why it was perfectly proper for him to wait until 1999 to take it in as income. “I paid my taxes fully, to the best of my knowledge,” he reiterates — and this is important to him: The use of the voluntary disclosure vehicle was *not* to imply culpability.
Wolson, who is just letting Mulroney go off on his various rants without bothering to respond, once again tries to get Mulroney to acknowledge that, had he paid the taxes on in 1996, it would have been on the $225,000.
More arguing – Mulroney is just refusing to answer questions now, since he had turned it over to his tax lawyer, and apparently, that means he doesn’t have to know anything about how the deal was struck. Can the commission call the lawyer as a witness? Maybe he would have answers!
Apparently, Wolson has a half an hour left in his questioning — “so, in half an hour, you’ll be terminated?” — er, Wolson doesn’t love that choice of words, but yes, that’s the upshot.
ITQ is also not loving the fact that we’re going for another half hour without a break, particularly since we’re still going to be back tomorrow for Auger’s round, but there you go.
The point, apparently, is that he doesn’t declare the full amount, but $37,500 for each year; Mulroney seems flustered, and suggests this has “nothing to do with him” – he was an “anonymous taxpayer”, and this was an entirely normal process. Yet instead of paying taxes of income of $225,000, the unshakeoffable Wolson insists, he paid it on $115,000, or thereabouts.
“It was a pretty good deal,” Oliphant observes, and Pratte jumps up to remind us all that this agreement was reached with the tax departments.
Moving on — oh, wait, we’re not moving on at all, we’re still on the taxes, and I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY, ALL YOU PEOPLE WHO WANTED MORE ON TAXES! Oh, I kid. This actually *is* fascinating, and I can’t wait to hear from the CRA officials tomorrow. That is, unless they get bumped for Day Six of the Mulroneython.
Finally, Pratte wins an objection, although it doesn’t seem to come as much of a surprise to Wolson — when he asks Mulroney whether he told his tax lawyer that the money was received in cash. “Don’t answer that,” Oliphant tells him.
Ooh! Closing questions, albeit with an asterisk; we *are* coming back tomorrow – yes, all of us, Team Mulroney – but Wolson, at least, will be back in his chair.
Anyway, the first question involves the “lawful commercial relationship” between himself and Schreiber; despite having had the opportunity to go public, he didn’t. Somehow, this results in Mulroney once again hurling an aside at the fifth estate, but he does seem to acknowledge that perhaps Luc Lavoie’s advice to hold a press conference might have been a good idea.
He also defends his decision *not* to discuss his private dealings — he has the right to keep that to himself, just as former prime ministers like, say, Chretien, can keep their business to themselves. Mulroney notes that even Lavoie conceded that he understood why Mulroney might not have wanted to go public – after the Airbus Experience – but he now agrees it would have been the better choice.
Why, Mulroney wonders, in response to a question from Wolson, would he have held a news conference in 2003, when Kaplan’s article had told the story? Wait, what? So now he’s *happy* with Kaplan’s account?
Shoutout to the bells! The bells that he told a SFX event would be on, that is — does he not understand *now* what he did wrong? Not exactly — he acknowledges that it was “unwise” not to be more open about that private, legal arrangement. Wolson wonders if he’s really claiming that he gave the same full statement about the work he did, the nature of the relationship between himself and Schreiber, the amount he paid, etcetera et al — yes. The answer is yes; bizarrely, he now seems to be adopting Kaplan’s crie de legalistic journalist (or journalistic lawyer)account as his own, or as good as such.
“After twenty one years of inquiries” in pursuit of “him and his family”, no wrongdoings have been find, and none *will* be found, Mulroney assures the judge, who may have his own ideas on that, but never mind – he’s done — Wolson, that is. He wishes Mulroney well, and – Mulroney does realize that he’s coming back for Auger, right?
Oliphant notes that he wasn’t going to put any counsel in a position of having to hurry, so he’d like to get an idea of what the other parties have in store.
Vicary says he doesn’t expect to be asking questions, although he entices us with the possibility that he *may*, based on “instructions” tonight. Oliphant finds this curious. Houston, surprisingly, has no questions for the witness, and Auger says he predicts somewhere in the range of two hours – by noon tomorrow, he says.
Which means Mulroney will be back tomorrow; we’re going to break for now, which is music to ITQ’s thumbs, to mangle a metaphor. See you back here at 9:30, everyone!