The Art and Science of Cross-Examining Mueller

A few tips for Republicans during the upcoming testimony from the Special Counsel.

American Spectator:

In a desperate effort to squeeze political advantage out of the Special Counsel’s report exonerating Donald Trump and his presidential campaign of conspiring with Russia to affect the outcome of the 2016 election, Congressional Democrats have subpoenaed Robert Mueller to testify before the Oversight and Judiciary committees of the House of Representatives. They apparently believe that Mueller’s testimony will further their impeachment narrative by drawing public attention to those portions of the report interpreted by some partisans as demonstrating that President Trump obstructed the investigation of his non-conspiracy with Russia.

Quite understandably, Congressional Republicans have been slapping their foreheads in joyous disbelief at the Democrats’ decision to expose Mueller to cross-examination by the minority members on those committees. Mueller, his band of angry Hillary Clinton acolytes, and their innuendo-laden report certainly have many glaring vulnerabilities that experienced cross-examiners can exploit to the president’s benefit. But before the president’s supporters get too carried away at the happy prospect of Mueller squirming, sweating, and ultimately going catatonic under the relentless questioning of avenging House Republicans, a few words of caution are in order.

First, cross-examination is at once an art and a science, subject to certain rules that must be followed in order for it to be effective. Unfortunately, most members of Congress are terrible questioners and even worse cross-examiners. They tend to ask sloppy, convoluted, and easily evaded questions with little follow-up. It’s not their fault or even a part of their job description. It’s just the way it is.

Second, the committee format, which limits questioning by each member to a mere five minutes, makes it extremely difficult to lay the necessary foundation of any good cross-examination: the meticulous and comprehensive question-by-question preliminary process of pinning down the witness and closing off all rhetorical escape routes before the questioner can go in for the kill. Doing this well is difficult even for experienced trial lawyers who are not faced with an arbitrarily brief time limits.

So, how should the Republicans approach Mueller? Here are a few suggestions.

Not all cross-examination need be destructive or calculated to undermine the witness. In fact, if a witness has favorable information to impart, that should be elicited up front before the questioning becomes contentious.

For example, the Mueller report exonerates the president on the charge of conspiracy with Russia. Selected passages from the report that make that point should be read by the questioner to Mueller, and the questioner should follow the reading of each passage by asking, (a) Did I read that correctly, (b) In preparing and drafting the report, did you and your colleagues take care to have the report accurately reflect your findings, and (c) Is the passage that I just read the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? What’s Mueller going to do? Refute his own work product? read more

9 Comments on The Art and Science of Cross-Examining Mueller

  1. One strategy would be for all the republican to yield his/her time and have one speaker carry the ball for all.

  2. Muleface is only testifying for 4 hours & that time is divided between 2 committees. there’s not going to be a lot of time for anyone to set up a cross-exam, let alone establish facts & get any answers to pertinent questions … the D’rats have seen to this. they will interject, interrupt & argue to take any time away from any repub that might score a hit, then run out in front of the cameras & say that Muleface provided them w/ enough pathways to impeach

    the Swamp will be in full cya mode on July 17

  3. someone sure as hell needs to ask him about the cellphone that was found, turned on, stuffed in the sofa (that he sat in) of the Oval Office, after his visit with President Trump.

  4. Don’t worry, the Dems will bend parliamentary procedure to make sure that Republicans don’t get to do much.

    Yeah, those who orchestrated the attempted coup will skate. I would love to be surprised, but I doubt I will be.

  5. If they agreed to only 4 hours then the fix is already in. You’ll have the constant interruptions, rest breaks and insufferably long statements to eat away the time.
    I agree they should assign one person to do the questioning and that should be John Ratcliffe.

  6. If the Dems run interference to chew up GOP time that why can’t he be called before a Senate committee or for that matter a Grand Jury as I would think that Barr has a secret one going someplace.
    I like the idea of all the Republicans ceding their time to the best GOP interrogator on the committee.


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