One of the thorniest issues raised by Brian Mulroney’s testimony is the question of what connection, if any, he had with Franz Josef Strauss, the late chairman of Airbus and noted benefactor of conservative politicians around the world — including Mulroney, as it happens. It was Strauss’s money that Karlheinz Schreiber contributed to the dump-Clark movement at the 1983 leadership review, paving the way for Mulroney to become Conservative leader and, a year later, Prime Minister.
Now, if Mulroney did know Strauss, it wouldn’t mean that he knew that Strauss had helped in his rise to the top. And even if he knew anything about that, it wouldn’t mean that he had anything to do with the Airbus deal. All the same, Mulroney was categorical in his 1996 examination: “I did not know Mr. Strauss myself, nor did I know any of his family.” No cup-of-cofffee equivocation here — this time it’s a flat denial:
Q: Is it not a fact that Franz Josef Strauss was the chairman of Airbus?
A: I have no idea.
Q: You have no idea of who Franz Josef Strauss is?
A: Oh, yes, I do.
Gérald Tremblay (one of Mulroney’s lawyers): The question is: “Is it not a fact that he was chairman of Airbus?”
A: I… I knew of Franz Josef Strauss; I didn’t know him personally, I never met him, but I knew of him as the Premier of Bavaria and as a Minister of Finance in the Federal Republic. I had no idea what his other occupations may be.
Yet his former appointments secretary, the self-described “gatekeeper” to his office, Pat MacAdam, tells a very different story. MacAdam has said or written on different occasions over a space of more than a decade — to William Kaplan in 1994, to the fifth estate in 1999, in his newspaper column in 2007– that Mulroney and Strauss were “old friends,” that Strauss was “a good friend of Mulroney’s [in] years gone by,” and that “Brian Mulroney was pretty thick with Franz Josef Strauss.”
Then there’s the question of Max Strauss, Franz Josef’s son, one of the family members Mulroney professes not to know. MacAdam is on record repeatedly saying that, before Mulroney became Prime Minister, Schreiber “used to show up with Strauss’s son,” that “the son used to call on him [Mulroney] as a courtesy call,” that Schreiber would “come in with Max Strauss …
oh, maybe five, six, seven times a year.”
(CORRECTION: Beware of ellipses. A closer examination of the transcript of that 1999 interview suggests that “five, six, seven times a years” is a reference to the number of times MacAdam saw Schreiber, not the number of times Schreiber and Strauss visited Mulroney’s office together. On the other hand, MacAdam also says that Schreiber was “a close friend of Mr. Mulroney’s. They knew each other long before Mr. Mulroney became an MP and leader of the opposition. I don’t know where they met, maybe through the Strausses.”)
Now, MacAdam has said different things on other occasions. In 2001, he told the fifth estate that the younger Strauss visited only once, for 30 seconds. He also said he didn’t think Mulroney had ever met the senior Strauss.
At the Oliphant inquiry, under oath, he stuck to the “one visit” version with regard to Max. But he insisted, repeatedly, that Mulroney knew Franz Josef.
MS BROOKS: “Mulroney was pretty thick with Franz Josef Strauss.”
MR. MacADAM: I don’t know that. I know that they knew each other.
One of these gentlemen is clearly mistaken.