It’s an often necessary but rarely neat journalistic exercise – locating and asking relevant questions of a reluctant participant who has gone to great lengths to avoid them.
Boris Johnson had been on a long WE journey, across Texas to Las Vegas in the west and Washington DC in the east.
Exclusive to Boris Johnson:
Ex-PM says new lockdown allegations are ‘total nonsense’
He had dined with former Presidents George W Bush and donald trump.
He had given speeches, at least one for a six-figure sum, and had spoken out on a series of questions – Ukraineespecially.
Mr. Johnson had covered some distance and considerable subject matter.
But he hadn’t covered COVID, until we catch up when departing from Dulles Airport in Virginia.
And the former prime minister’s “doorstepping” was not orderly, as he was escorted by aides and security personnel to a check-in counter, initially reluctant to answer questions.
As we weaved our way zigzag through an airport hall, with a characteristic tousling of his hair, he finally decided he would answer questions about it; to be fair, at one point he stopped a security guard from intervening with, “He’s from Sky News, he’s got a right to ask me questions.”
In doing so, he removed doubts about his defense regarding new claims of lockdown violations – kind of.
But in the rush of a home Q&A, the denial lacked detail.
“Completely absurd” is how he repeatedly described claims he broke lockdown rules at Checkers and Downing Street – a “load of utter nonsense”, he added.
These are emphatic statements that convey outright rejection, the outrage of a headline-grabbing man.
But this is a police matter and they will want more, as will the Commons Privileges Committee.
Their questions will be aimed at calibrating the consistency in Mr Johnson’s case for his defense and assessing how his story fits together.
There will also be evidence, recorded in the ministerial diaries.
‘There’s no smoke without fire,’ says former Johnson press chief
COVID – and broken rules – luggage showman Johnson can’t lose
Would other shortcomings be fatal to the career of the former Prime Minister?
Considering how an inquiry might unfold, consider Mr Johnson’s response: “There are tens of thousands of entries in the Prime Minister’s diary. I have never seen these things before – I have traveled – none of them constitutes a violation of the rules during covid.”
Any investigator will wonder how the certainty of this answer corresponds to the fact that he has never “seen these things before”.
Maybe it was vague wording, maybe it was more.
Certainly, he will be asked to clarify, and the documentation itself should help sort it out, with the truth on record.
This is all part of a wide-ranging investigation that is important for a number of reasons for a number of people, including members of the public who have sought leadership during the pandemic and feel let down.
There are issues that go far beyond the machinations of the Conservative Party in this area, regardless of their political scope.
The issue that Mr Johnson did not address directly at our ‘doorstep’, however, was one that was at the heart of his future.
If he is found to have broken lockdown rules again – is he finished as a politician?