To the Editor: Both Democratic House Members and some in the media have obviously leaned a few important lessons in questioning and cross-examining hostile witnesses, including Donald Trump, Rudolph Giuliani and Mike Pompeo.
I believe they learned these lessons from watching Barry H. Berke rip into Corey Lewandowski with his rapid-fire cross-examination and turn the Lewandowski comedy circus into the serious disruption and invalidation of a well-prepared liar.
The Members of Congress lacked the preparation, focus and tenacity that Berke brought to the interrogation.
How did Berke successfully trap and corner Lewandowski when the previous questioners had failed? First, Berke is good at his job, and that’s why he is a highly respected white-collar defense attorney in his real job.
He got Lewandowski to admit that he had lied when he said he couldn’t recall any conversation he had with Mr Trump about Jeff Sessions.
However, what Members of Congress and the media learned from Berke’s courtroom lesson can be capsulized in meticulous preparation, a laser focus on the objectives, and tenacity that refuses to allow the witness to dodge the question, change the subject or lie without a forceful challenge.
We can see that some of the Democrats and members of the media are already using some of Berke’s lessons effectively, especially in better preparation and the refusal to allow Trump or his spokespersons, including Giuliani and Pompeo, to change the subject or dodge the question.
On Oct. 2 at the press conference with the president of Finland, Reuters journalist Jeff Mason asked President Trump to explain what he wanted Ukraine’s President Zelensky to do about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, during that now-infamous phone call.
Trump tried to dodge the question, but Mason persisted, to which Trump, seeming to imitate Robert de Niro’s character in the movie “Taxi Driver,” responding: “Are you talking to me?”
“Yeah, it was a followup of what I just asked you, sir,” Mason said. Trump then pointed to the president of Finland, Niinisto, and said: “Ask him a question.” To which Mason, not letting up, responded: “I have one for him; I just wanted to follow up on the one that I asked you.”
An enraged Trump interrupted Mason and still refused to answer the question. However, by then, everyone watching knew the answer that Trump would never admit to; that is, “Yes, I wanted Zelensky to dig up dirt on my principal Democratic adversary, Joe Biden, to hurt Biden and help me win the 2020 presidential election.”
Thank you, Barry H. Berke, for showing Members of Congress and members of the media how to cross-examine a very hostile witness, Donald Trump, as well as his spokespersons and sycophants.
MICHAEL J. GORMAN
Editor’s note: The writer is a retired NYPD Lieutenant and an attorney.
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