Anyone watching the appearance of Corey Lewandowski before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday was very likely to come away thinking it was a complete waste of time. Or, at least, a waste of time for those who were trying to learn something about Donald Trump’s efforts to get Lewandowski to obstruct justice by forcing then-Attorney General Jefferson Sessions to halt the investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016. Those who tuned in to see Republicans roll their eyes, pound their fists, and say “Hillary Clinton” over 40 times while making references to both Stalin and Lenin were richly rewarded. After five hours of watching Lewandowski insult representatives and refuse to answer questions, every news network tuned out. Even C-SPAN moved the hearing from CSPAN 1 to did-you-know-there’s-a-CSPAN-3? But that’s when it got good.
Because that’s when Barry Berke—on loan as a consultant to the committee from a top New York law firm—got his chance to question Trump’s former campaign manager. And the result was genuinely electric. Had Berke gone first, it’s fair to say that the Lewandowski hearing would be at the top of every paper on Wednesday, rather than buried somewhere in the depths. The whole point of bringing Berke in to begin with was so he could do exactly what he did on Tuesday. The effectiveness with which he easily threw Lewandowski off balance and ripped away his script of nonanswers is really something to see; it’s too bad almost no one saw it.
The lesson coming out of Tuesday was simple enough: Let Berke go first. The five-minute rule and the back-and-forth nature of questioning by representatives result in a process that’s both ineffective in extracting information and prone to promoting grandstanding. Even from the Democratic side, the questions involved a lot of loud declarations about Lewandowski being a “hit man” or Trump using him as “an enforcer,” which might be good as a shot at getting a line on the evening news, but were utterly useless in getting a response.
Watch Berke do his thing … and imagine how these hearings could be.