George HW Bush Pardons 5 Convicted Gov’t Officials in the Iran Contra Affairs and Caspar Weinberger whose Trial had Not Yet Begun

Iran-Contra Affair pardons. George H. W. Bush (R) granted clemency to five convicted government officials and Caspar Weinberger, whose trial had not yet begun. This action prevented any further investigation into the matter. Weinberger had been indicted by attorney Lawrence Walsh on five felony charges related to the Iran-Contra affair, including accusations that he’d lied to Congress and obstructed Congress. This is the indictment that ousted one corrupt drug running U.S. president in his bid for re-election in favor of another corrupt president, Bill Clinton. A month after the election, a federal district judge threw out the one-count indictment. Two weeks after that, on Christmas Eve, Bush issued presidential pardons for Weinberger and five others implicated in the arms-for-hostages affair earning himself the title of Pardoner-in-Chief! Walsh charged that Bush had issued the pardon simply in order to avoid closer scrutiny of his own role in the affair.

  • Casper Weinberger was Secretary of Defense during Iran-Contra.  In June 1992 he was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of concealing from congressional investigators and prosecutors thousands of pages of his handwritten notes.  The personal memoirs taken during high level meetings, detailed events in 1985 and 1986 involving the Iran-Contra affair.  Weinberger claimed he was being unfairly prosecuted because he would not provide information incriminating Ronald Reagan.  Weinberger was scheduled to go on trial January 5, 1993, where the contents of his notes would have come to light and may have implicated other, unindicted conspirators.  While Weinberger was never directly linked to the covert operations phase of the Iran-Contra affair, he is believed to have been involved in the cover-up of the ensuing scandal. According to Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, Weinberger’s notes contain evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to congress and the American public.  Some of the notes are believed to have evidence against then Vice-President George Bush who pardoned Weinberger to keep him from going to trial.
  • Robert C. McFarlane was appointed Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor in October 1983 and become well-known as a champion of the MX missile program in his role as White House liaison to congress.  In 1984, McFarlane initiated the review of U.S. policy towards Iran that led directly to the arms for hostages deal.  He also supervised early National Security Council efforts to support the Contras. Shortly after the Iran-Contra scandal was revealed in early 1987, McFarlane took an overdose of the tranquilizer Valium in an attempt to end his life.  In his own words: “What really drove me to despair was a sense of having failed the country.” McFarlane pled guilty to four misdemeanors and was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service.  He was also fined $20,000.  He received a blanket pardon from President George Bush.
  • Elliott Abrams was appointed by President Reagan in 1985 to head the State Department’s Latin American Bureau.  He was closely linked with ex-White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver North’s covert movement to aid the Contras.  Working for North, Abrams coordinated inter-agency support for the contras and helped solicit illegal funding from foreign powers as well as domestic contributors.  Abrams agreed to cooperate with Iran-Contra investigators and pled guilty to two charges reduced to misdemeanors.  He was sentenced in 1991 to two years probation and 100 hours of community service but was pardoned by President George Bush.
  • Clair George was Chief of the CIA’s Division of Covert Operations under President Reagan.  In August 1992 a hung jury led U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth to declare a mistrial in the case of Clair George who was accused of concealing from Congress his knowledge of the Iran-Contra affair.  George had been named by Alan Fiers when Fiers turned state’s evidence for Lawrence Walsh’s investigation. In a second trial on charges of perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice, George was convicted of lying to two congressional committees in 1986.  George faced a maximum five year federal prison sentence and a $20,000 fine for each of the two convictions.  Jurors cleared George of five other charges including two counts of lying to a federal grand jury.  Those charges would have carried a mandatory 10 months in prison upon conviction.  Clair George received a blanket pardon for his crimes from President George Bush.
  • Alan D. Fiers was the Chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Central American Task Force.  Fiers pled guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information from congress about Oliver North’s activities and the diversion of Iran arms sale money to aid the Contras.  He was sentenced to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service.  Fiers agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for having his felonies reduced to misdemeanors and his testimony gave a boost to the long standing criminal investigation of Lawrence Walsh, Special Prosecutor.  Fiers testified that he and three CIA colleagues knew by mid-1986 that profits from the TOW and HAWK missile sales to Iran were being diverted to the Contras months before it became public knowledge.  Alan Fiers received a blanket pardon for his crimes from President Bush.
  • Duane R. (Dewey) Clarridge was head of the CIA’s Western European Division under President Reagan.  He was indicted on November 29, 1991 for lying to congress and to the Tower Commission that investigated Iran- Contra.  Clarridge was charged with five counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements for covering up his knowledge of a November 25, 1985 shipment of HAWK missiles to Iran. Clarridge was also suspected of diverting to the Contras weapons that were originally intended for the Afghan mujahaddeen guerrillas.  Clarridge received a blanket pardon for his crimes on Christmas Eve 1992 from President George Bush.

Of course, the bombshell decision made the front page of the New York Times on Christmas Day, itself a red flag (there’s nothing more obvious like a Christmas eve news dump). The pardoning of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was particularly troublesome because it prevented his notes from coming to light; those notes allegedly detailed Bush’s role in the scandal and potentially a huge conflict of interest:

Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger’s private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush’s endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran.

In one remaining facet of the inquiry, the independent prosecutor, Lawrence E. Walsh, plans to review a 1986 campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush. Mr. Walsh has characterized the President’s failure to turn over the diary until now as misconduct.

The White House cover-up that no one wants you to understand

by Robert Parry | Mother Jones | Jul/Aug 1993

As Lawrence Walsh ends his six-year Iran-contra investigation , Washington insiders are busy judging how big a failure the independent prosecutor has been. “The truth is that when Walsh finally goes home, he will leave a perceived loser,” concluded Marjorie Williams in a recent Washington Post profile.

“Loser” is only one of the epithets that the D.C. press corps has hurled at Walsh since he indicted former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger a year ago. In journal after influential journal, the eighty-one-year-old ex-federal judge has been likened to Captains Ahab and Queeg, Victor Hugo’s Inspector Javert, Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, and even the Inquisition’s Torquemada. The trashing of Lawrence Walsh has become a journalistic cottage industry–and has put the press in the disturbing role of objecting to discovery of the truth.

Washington’s overt hostility to the investigation, as evidenced in commentaries by liberals as well as conservatives, has even contributed to the success of the Reagan-Bush administrations’ long-running cover-up. The assaults on Walsh have served as a kind of peer-group enforcement mechanism that has limited his investigation’s options.

James Brosnahan, the San Francisco trial attorney who moved to Washington last fall to prosecute Weinberger (before Bush pardoned him), came to see the unrelenting attacks against Walsh as part of the obstruction of justice. “It was all so transparent that I was disappointed more people didn’t pick up on the fact that all they were really trying to do was obstruct the trial of Weinberger,” he says.

“It was going to be a hell of a trial. The full story would have been told, as it pertained to the [obstruction] counts of the indictment. They [senior Reagan-Bush officials] couldn’t have a trial. The cross- examination of Caspar Weinberger was going to be an event.”

Walsh’s team had discovered that Weinberger’s handwritten notes disproved Bush’s claim that he had been “out of the loop” and proved that Weinberger knew full well about $25 million in Saudi contributions to the contras, even as he told Congress in 1986 that the charge was “so outlandish as to be unworthy of comment.”

According to Brosnahan, the trial would have shown that Weinberger knew as early as summer 1985 that President Ronald Reagan had personally authorized missile shipments to Iran in violation of the Arms Control Export Act, and that this potentially impeachable act was concealed by constructing a false record. “The August [1985] meeting [of Reagan’s National Security Council] discussed having Israel send the missiles to Iran and replenishing them out of U.S. stocks,” says Brosnahan. “Weinberger is responsible for all missiles. The secretary of defense is the guy.”

Another guy who stood to lose his exalted standing in Washington if the trial took place was General Colin Powell, who was Weinberger’s principal aide in 1985. In an affidavit, Powell said he “saw virtually all the papers that went in and out of [Weinberger’s] office” and thus would have had direct access to the evidence of missile replenishment. Early in the investigation, Powell gave conflicting accounts of his knowledge of Weinberger’s extensive personal notes, denying knowledge of their existence (when Weinberger was claiming he didn’t take any), and then saying in 1992 that the notes were no secret and describing them in detail (after Weinberger was forced to cough them up).

One of the prosecution’s star witnesses would have been White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan, who finally would have recounted the frantic Oval Office scrambling to contain the scandal in November 1986, Brosnahan says. “Regan would say that when it broke, he denied things. But there came a point when he knew it was out of control. At some point, in December [1985] or January [1986], he wanted to get the whole thing out.”

But the deafening drumbeat against Lawrence Walsh drowned out any honest telling of the truth. As his days in the White House drew to a close, Bush tested the waters for a pardon. Weinberger’s defense team floated trial balloons before influential media groups, including editors and writers for the Washington Post, and consulted with top Democrats, including House Speaker Thomas Foley and then- Representative Les Aspin (now defense secretary). It was clear that reaction to a Weinberger pardon would be mild. Bush subsequently killed the Weinberger trial (scheduled to start last January) by pardoning him and five other Iran-contra figures.

This past spring, emboldened by anti-Walsh sentiment, former President Bush balked at an earlier understanding that he would submit to unrestricted Iran-contra questioning after the 1992 election. Having been pummeled in the media over the length and cost ($36 million-plus) of his investigation, Walsh shrank from the ugly battle that would have ensued if he’d tried to drag Bush before a grand jury.

Walsh lost the public-relations battle, even as he finally exposed the lies that protected the Oval Office from the consequences of President Reagan’s illegal acts. Though Walsh could finally prove initial crimes and the obstruction of justice, official Washington didn’t want to hear about it. Iran-contra was too old, too complicated.

The Washington Post’s Williams spoke for many colleagues when she criticized Walsh’s “anachronistic sense” of outrage in the face of the “silent political referendum” against pursuing the Iran-contra crimes. This was a Washington consensus that, Williams wrote, “Walsh alone ignored.”

With an irony no less destructive for its sophistication, she criticized Walsh as a man out of step with expediency. “In the utilitarian political universe of Washington, consistency like Walsh’s is distinctly suspect,” Williams explained. “It began to seem . . . rigid of him to care so much. So un-Washington. Hence the gathering critique of his efforts as vindictive, extreme.”

But in the context of helping to pry loose proof of White House wrongdoing, Walsh has accomplished a remarkable feat: he has salvaged an important part of American history, so that future generations might understand the strange events that occurred inside the U.S. government in the 1980s. It’s clear that the full truth on Iran-contra will never be told. But considering White House dishonesty, congressional timidity, and the press corps’ complacence, Lawrence Walsh did his best. He wrested from a determined White House cover-up a substantive if incomplete accounting of history. He has proven himself no loser.

Colin Powell, also part of the Cover Up?

From an article in Salon Magazine, writer David Corn says the prosecution team caught Powell in a lie:

Colin Powell, who had been Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s senior military assistant when the Reagan administration was secretly trading arms with Iran, played a small but key role in the Weinberger episode. In 1987, seven investigators from the House and Senate Iran-Contra committees questioned Powell in the White House situation room. In the course of this sworn deposition, Powell was asked a standard question: Did Weinberger keep a diary? The investigators wanted to know if documentary evidence existed that could help them unravel the scandal.

Powell replied, “The secretary, to my knowledge, did not keep a diary.” But, as Walsh’s investigators found out four years later, Weinberger had kept an extensive diary. Perhaps it was possible Powell had not known about Weinberger’s notes. But in 1992, when Weinberger was under investigation for having lied about the notes, Powell had a different story to tell about his old boss’s diaries.

In a sworn affidavit submitted to Walsh’s office by Weinberger’s attorney, Powell said, “During the period I worked with Secretary Weinberger … I observed on his desk a small pad of white paper, approximately 5″ by 7″. He would jot down on this pad in abbreviated form various calls and events during the day. I viewed it as his personal diary.” In a subsequent interview with Walsh’s office, Powell revealed that he even knew that Weinberger had stored his diary notes “in his desk on the right side.”

Powell’s 1992 statement contradicted his 1987 statement. But he wasn’t ratting out Weinberger. In fact, he was supporting him, for Weinberger was then claiming that he had not conspired to hide his notes, that his diaries had not been a secret to those around him, that his failure to turn over thousands of pages was merely an oversight. Weinberger’s line was: See, everyone knew about them. Powell was backing him up.

Walsh was perturbed by the conflict in Powell’s statements. How could Powell in 1992 have a clear and specific memory of diaries, when in 1987 he had said Weinberger kept no diaries? One of these statements, each sworn, had to be false. Walsh even uncovered evidence showing that Powell had helped Weinberger maintain his diary notes.

Walsh might have explored this troubling contradiction during Weinberger’s trial, for Powell was on the witness list. But on Dec. 24, 1992, days before the trial was to begin, a lame-duck President Bush pardoned Weinberger and five other Iran-Contra figures. “Powell was going to be an important witness during the Weinberger trail,” says a lawyer who worked with Walsh. “What would have transpired we’ll never know.”

 

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