BUSH PARDONS 6 IN IRAN AFFAIR, ABORTING A WEINBERGER TRIAL; PROSECUTOR
BUSH DIARY AT ISSUE
6-Year Inquiry Into Deal of Arms
for Hostages All but Swept Away
By DAVID JOHNSTON
Special to The New York Times
ASHINGTON, Dec. 24 -- Six years
after the arms-for-hostages scandal began to cast a shadow that would darken
two Administrations, President Bush today granted full pardons to six former
officials in Ronald Reagan's Administration, including former Defense Secretary
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.
Decapitated Walsh Efforts
But in a single stroke, Mr. Bush swept away one conviction, three guilty
pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr.
Walsh's effort, which began in 1986. Mr. Bush's decision was announced
by the White House in a printed statement after the President left for
Camp David, where he will spend the Christmas holiday.
Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President's action, charging that 'the
Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has
now been completed.'
Mr. Walsh directed his heaviest fire at Mr. Bush over the pardon of
Mr. Weinberger, whose trial would have given the prosecutor a last chance
to explore the role in the affair of senior Reagan officials, including
Mr. Bush's actions as Vice President.
'Evidence of Conspiracy'
Mr. Walsh hinted that Mr. Bush's pardon of Mr. Weinberger and the President's
own role in the affair could be related. For the first time, he charged
that Mr. Weinberger's notes about the secret decision to sell arms to Iran,
a central piece of evidence in the case against the former Pentagon chief,
included 'evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration
officials to lie to Congress and the American public.'
The prosecutor charged that Mr. Weinberger's efforts to hide his notes
may have 'forestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan'
and formed part of a pattern of 'deception and obstruction.' On Dec. 11,
Mr. Walsh said he discovered 'misconduct' in Mr. Bush's failure to turn
over what the prosecutor said were the President's own 'highly relevant
contemporaneous notes, despite repeated requests for such documents.'
The notes, in the form of a campaign diary that Mr. Bush compiled after
the elections in November 1986, are in the process of being turned over
to Mr. Walsh, who said, 'In light of President Bush's own misconduct, we
are gravely concerned about his decision to pardon others who lied to Congress
and obstructed official investigations.'
In an interview on the 'McNeil-Lehrer Newshour' tonight, Mr. Walsh said
for the first time that Mr. Bush was a subject of his investigation. The
term 'subject,' as it has been used by Mr. Walsh's prosecutors, is broadly
defined as someone involved in events under scrutiny, but who falls short
of being a target, or a person likely to be charged with a crime. In the
inquiry into the entire Iran-contra affair, a number of Government officials
have been identified as subjects who were never charged with wrongdoing.
What Charges Are Unlikely
The prosecutor said he would take appropriate action in Mr. Bush's case,
implying he might contemplate future legal action against the President
for withholding relevant documents. But prosecutors have said in the past
that charging a President or former President with wrongdoing would be
highly unlikely without overwhelming evidence of a serious crime.
C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel, said today that Mr. Bush had
voluntarily supplied the disputed material to Mr. Walsh, asserting that
the notes contained no new information about the affair. Mr. Gray said
Mr. Bush wanted make the notes public, but did not say when.
President-elect Bill Clinton, at a news conference in Little Rock, Ark.,
to announce his remaining Cabinet selections, said he wanted to learn more
about the pardons, adding, 'I am concerned by any action that sends a signal
that if you work for the Government, you're beyond the law, or that not
telling the truth to Congress under oath is somehow less serious than not
telling the truth to some other body under oath.'
Mr. Bush, in a statement accompanying the pardon, seemed to anticipate
his critics, acknowledging that his decision might be interpreted as an
effort to 'prevent full disclosure of some new key fact to the American
people.' He said, 'That is not true.'
Asserting that 'no impartial person has seriously suggested that my
own role in this matter is legally questionable,' the President sought
to position himself on the side of greater openness. Mr. Bush said he had
asked Mr. Walsh to provide him with a copy of his testimony to the prosecutor,
which he would make public.
Lobbying by Ex-Reagan Aides
Today's action followed intensive lobbying by former Reagan aides to
pardon Mr. Weinberger and a series of meetings in recent days at the White
House, culminating with the President's decision this morning. Republicans,
long angered by the prosecution, were incensed by the new indictment of
Mr. Weinberger four days before the election. The indictment said Mr. Weinberger's
notes contradicted Mr. Bush's assertions that he had only a fragmentary
knowledge of the arms secretly sold to Iran in 1985 and 1986 in exchange
for American hostages in Lebanon.
Mr. Weinberger was also charged with testifying falsely to Congress
that he did not recall whether Saudi Arabia had ever contributed to the
contras. Prosecutors said his notes showed that he had known of the Saudi
Records made public over the years included no evidence that Mr. Bush
knew about he secret efforts to arm the Nicaraguan rebels, but they did
suggest he knew of Iran operation almost from its inception in 1985 and
took part in crucial meetings where the arms sales were openly discussed
as an arms-for-hostages swap. The Reagan Administration's public policy
was never to bargain for the freedom of hostages.
Mr. Bush said today that the Walsh prosecution reflected 'a profoundly
troubling development in the political and legal climate of our country:
the criminalization of policy differences.'
Question of Politics
He added: 'These differences should have been addressed in the political
arena without the Damocles sword of criminality hanging over the heads
of some of the combatants. The proper target is the President, not his
subordinates; the proper forum is the voting booth, not the courtroom.'
In his comments, Mr. Bush said he was trying to 'put bitterness behind
us,' asserting that each of the men he was pardoning had a long record
of public service and had already paid a heavy price for their involvement
in the affair in damaged careers, hurt families and depleted savings.
The Iran-contra affair, the worst scandal of Mr. Reagan's Presidency,
came into the open in the fall of 1986 with the disclosure of two intertwined
secret operations: the arms sales to Teheran, and the diversion of profits
from those sales to help finance a covert weapons supply network to the
contras, set up in 1985, after Congress barred direct aid to the rebels.
Besides Mr. Weinberger, the President pardoned Robert C. McFarlane,
the former national security adviser, and Elliott Abrams, the former assistant
Secretary of State for Central America. Both officials had pleaded guilty
to misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress about support
for the contras.
Others Who Are Pardoned
The President also pardoned Clair E. George, the former head of the
Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine services, who was convicted earlier
this month, at his second trial, of two felony charges of perjury and misleading
Congress about both the contras and the Iran initiative -- crimes for which
he faced up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Two other intelligence officials were granted clemency, Duane R. Clarridge,
the former head of the C.I.A.'s European division, who was awaiting trial
on charges that he misled Congressional investigators about a missile shipment
to Iran in 1985.
The other was Alan D. Fiers Jr., once a rising star with the agency,
who had pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information about the contras
from Congress and who later decided to cooperate with the prosecution,
becoming Mr. George's chief accuser at both his trials.
Mr. Bush described Mr. Weinberger as a 'true American patriot' and he
said clemency was granted both to spare him torment and cost of lengthy
legal proceedings as well as out of a concern for the health of Mr. Weinberger,
who is 75 year old.
Mr. Weinberger, who was asked at a news conference today whether his
notes contained any entries that might be embarrassing to Mr. Bush, replied:
'No, certainly not. There's nothing in those notes that in any way contradicts
what President Bush said, or what President Reagan said.'
But not since President Gerald R. Ford granted clemency to former President
Richard M. Nixon for possible crimes in Watergate has a Presidential pardon
so pointedly raised the issue of whether the President was trying to shield
officials for political purposes. Mr. Walsh invoked Watergate tonight in
an interview on the ABC News program 'Nightline,' likening today's pardons
to President Richard M. Nixon's dismissal of the Watergate special prosecutor,
Archibald Cox, in 1973. Mr. Walsh said Mr. Bush had 'succeeded in a sort
of Saturday Night Massacre.'
Democratic lawmakers assailed the decision. Senator George J. Mitchell
of Maine, the Democratic leader, called the action a mistake. 'It is not
as the President stated today a matter of criminalizing policy differences,'
he said. 'If members of the executive branch lie to the Congress, obstruct
justice and otherwise break the law, how can policy differences be fairly
and legally resolved in a democracy.'
The main supporters of the pardon were Vice President Quayle, the Senate
Republican leader, Bob Dole, and Mr. Gray, one senior Administration official
said today. The decision, discussed in private, seemed to coalesce in the
last three weeks although Mr. Bush was said to believe that Mr. Weinberger
had been unfairly charged ever since the former Reagan Cabinet officer
was first indicted in June.
Throughout the deliberations, Mr. Bush consulted with Attorney General
William P. Barr and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, who
had sat on a Presidential review panel that examined the affair in early
In lengthy Oval Office meetings in the last week, Mr. Bush and his advisers,
none of whom offered a sharp dissent, discussed how to balance their desire
to grant a pardon with their realization that such an act would almost
certainly provoke hostility.
In the end, Mr. Bush's advisers decided he could surmount his critics
by expressing, as did in his statement, his willingness to make public
additional documents about the affair, like his statement to the prosecutors
and Mr. Weinberger's notes.
Caspar W. Weinberg, former Secretary of Defense. Charged with
perjury and making false statements stemming from a secret missile shipment
to Iran in 1985. Trial was scheduled for next month.
Duane R. Clarridge, former senior C.I.A. official. Charged with
seven counts of perjury and making false statements stemming from secret
missile shipment to Iran. Trial was scheduled for March.
Clair E. George, former head of C.I.A. covert operations. Found
guilty this month on two felony counts of lying to Congress. Was awaiting
Elliott Abrams, former Assistant Secretary of State. Pleaded
guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress. Sentenced to two
years' probation and 100 hours of community service.
Alan G. Fiers Jr., former head of C.I.A. Central American Task
Force. Pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress.
Sentenced to one year probation and 100 hours of community service.
Robert C. McFarlane, former national security adviser. Pleaded
guilty in 1988 to withholding information from Congress. Sentenced to two
years' probation and 200 hours of community service and fined $20,000.
'Presidential Pardons, Historically' Article 2 of the United
States Constitution gives the President broad power 'to grant reprieves
and pardons for offences against the United States.' Most Presidents grant
hundreds of individual pardons during their terms of office, and a few,
including Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter, have granted blanket amnesties,
another form of pardon, to a whole class of people. Pardons can be granted
at any time, before or after a person has been convicted of a crime.
The following are among the more noted Presidential pardons:
Thomas Jefferson, elected in 1800, pardoned all those convicted
of violating the Alien and Sedition Acts enacted two years earlier. The
Act expired in 1800, and was later found unconstitutional.
Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, and Andrew Johnson, in 1868, proclaimed
amnesty for Confederate soldiers.
Andrew Johnson, in 1869, pardoned Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, the doctor
who set John Wilkes Booth's broken leg after Mr. Booth assassinated President
Warren G. Harding, in 1921, pardoned Eugene V. Debs, a Socialist
who was jailed for sedition, and dozens of others jailed under World War
I seidtion and espionage laws.
Richard M. Nixon, in 1971, commuted the prison term of Jimmy
Hoffa, the former president of the teamsters' union, on the condition that
Mr. Hoffa not resume union activities.
Gerald R. Ford, in 1974, granted a full pardon to Mr. Richard
M. Nixon, who had resigned the Presidency because of the Watergate scandal.
Jimmy Carter, on the first day of his Presidency in 1977, proclaimed
amnesty for those who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. President
Ford, earlier, had offered a more limited amnesty for the Vietnam War resisters.
Ronald Reagan, in 1989, pardoned George Steinbrenner 3d, the
owner of the New York Yankees, who had been convicted on illegal contributions
to Mr. Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign.
George Bush, in 1989, pardoned Armand Hammer, the chairman of
Occidental Petroleum, who had pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions
to Mr. Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign.
Chart: 'Touched by Scandal'
AWAITING TRIAL AND PARDONED
Caspar W. Weinberger: The former Defense Secretary, who operated
within the inner circle of Ronald Reagan's advisers on military and diplomatic
affairs, was indicted in June on five felony charges, including accusations
that he had lied to Congress and concealed more than 1,700 pages of notes
from a personal diary recording his discussions with other officials about
arms sales to Iran. He was indicted again on Oct. 30 on a charge of making
a false statement to Congress. The indictment was brought to replace a
similar charge dismissed in September by a Federal district judge. He was
scheduled to stand trial next month.
Duane R. Clarridge: The Central Intelligence Agency's former
chief of European operations was indicted Nov. 26, 1991, on 10 counts of
perjury and making false statements stemming from a secret missile shipment
to Iran in November 1985. He pleaded not guilty on Dec. 6, 1991. On Dec.
10, a Federal judge ordered prosecutors to drop two charges from the indictment.
No trial date had been set.
GUILTY AND PARDONED
Clair E. George: The highest-ranking former C.I.A. official charged
in the scandal, he was indicted Sept. 6, 1991, on 10 counts of perjury,
false statements and obstructing Congressional and Federal investigators.
He pleaded not guilty on Sept. 12, 1991. Three obstruction-of-justice charges
were dismissed by a Federal judge last May 18; two new obstruction-of-justice
charges were filed two days later. A first trial ended in a mistrial in
August, when the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict. After a second
trial, he was found guilty on Dec. 9 of two counts of lying to Congress,
and faced sentencing in February of up to five years in prison and a $250,000
Robert C. McFarlane: President Reagan's national security adviser
from to December 1985, he pleaded guilty March 11, 1988, to four misdemeanor
charges of withholding information from Congress. On March 3, 1989, he
was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service
and fined $20,000.
Elliott Abrams: Former Assistant Secretary of State pleaded guilty
on Oct. 7, 1991, to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from
Congress about secret Government efforts to aid the Nicaraguan rebels.
Prosecutors said that he knew that Oliver L. North, then a National Security
Council aide, had been in contact with people supplying the contra rebels
and encouraged them to continue to aid the rebels despite a Congressional
ban on such aid. He was sentenced Nov. 15, 1991, to two years' probation
and 100 hours of community service.
Alan G. Fiers Jr.: The former head of the C.I.A.'s Central American
Task Force, who had worked for Mr. George, pleaded guilty on July 9, 1991,
to two misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress about
diverting money from Iranian arms sales to the Nicaraguan contras. He was
sentenced Jan. 31, 1992, to one year's probation and 100 hours of community
GULITY AND NOT PARDONED
Carl R. (Spitz) Channell and Richard R. Miller: Both businessmen
who helped Oliver L. North raise money from private donors for the contras.
Both pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to defraud the Government
by soliciting tax-deductible donations for non-deductible purposes, and
both were sentenced to probation.
Albert A. Hakim: An Iranian-born businessman who created a company
to funnel arms and money to the contras. He pleaded guilty on Nov. 21,
1989, to a misdemeanor charge of providing an illegal gratuity to Mr. North
by paying for a security fence at Mr. North's home. He was sentenced on
Jan. 24, 1990, to two years' probation.
Richard V. Secord: A retired Air Force major general who played
a crucial role in the secret arms shipments to Iran and support for the
Nicaraguan rebels. He pleaded guilty on Nov. 8, 1989, to lying to Congressional
investigators. He was sentenced on Jan. 24, 1990, to two years' probation.
Thomas G. Clines: The former C.I.A. agent was a business partner
of Mr. Secord and Mr. Hakim in supplying arms to Iran. He was convicted
Sept. 18, 1990, on four felony counts involving the underreporting of his
earnings to the Internal Revenue Service in 1986 and 1987 and falsely telling
the Government that he had no foreign bank accounts. On Dec. 13, 1990,
he was sentenced to 16 months in prison and fined $40,000. A Federal appeals
panel upheld the convictions on Feb. 27, 1992. He began serving his jail
sentence on May 25, the only defendant in the scandal to go to prison.
John M. Poindexter: President Reagan's national security adviser from
December 1985 to November 1986 was convicted on April 7, 1990, on five
counts involving charges that he obstructed, conspired to obstruct and
made false statements to Congress. He was sentenced June 11, 1990 to six
months in prison. A Federal appeals panel threw out the convictions on
Nov. 15, 1991, on the ground that Mr. Poindexter's testimony to Congress
under immunity was improperly used against him.
Joseph F. Fernandez: The case against the former C.I.A. station chief
in Costa Rica was dismissed after the Government refused a defense request
for classified documents.
Oliver L. North: The former Marine lieutenant colonel was a staff member
of the National Security Council. Was convicted on May 4, 1989, on three
felony counts for his role in the Iran-contra affair: aiding and abetting
obstruction of Congress, destroying security council documents and accepting
an illegal gift. He was acquitted on nine counts. He was sentenced July
5, 1989, to two years' probation and 1,200 hours of community service and
fined $150,000. On Sept. 16, 1991, the convictions were thrown out on appeal
because testimony in the trial might have been influenced by Mr. North's
testimony before Congress under immunity.