Bush Pardons Weinberger in Iran-Contra Affair

Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 25, 1992

President Bush yesterday pardoned former defense secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and five other former government officials involved in the Iran-contra affair because "it was time for the country to move on."

Independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh, who had prosecuted all six of those Bush pardoned, angrily declared that Bush's action meant that "the Iran-contra coverup, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed." But Walsh gave notice that he was still not finished with his investigation, indicating that he is now focusing on Bush himself.

Walsh disclosed that he had learned for the first time on Dec. 11 that Bush had "his own highly relevant contemporaneous notes" about the Iran-contra affair, which he "had failed to produce to investigators . . . despite repeated requests for such documents." He said Bush was still handing over these notes, a process that "will lead to appropriate action."

Withholding the notes until now constituted "misconduct" by Bush, Walsh said in a prepared statement, and like Weinberger's withholding of his notes, was part of "a disturbing pattern of deception and obstruction that permeated the highest levels of the Reagan and Bush administrations."

Last night, in an interview on PBS's "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour," Walsh went further, saying Bush is "the subject now of our investigation." Walsh said the president may have "illegally withheld documents" from Iran-contra investigations.

Sources close to the Walsh investigation said the independent counsel believes Bush acted yesterday, in part, to head off a trial of Weinberger that could have embarrassed the president. Walsh said on MacNeil/Lehrer that in pardoning Weinberger, Bush was "pardoning a man who committed the same type of misconduct that he [Bush] did."

Senior administration officials denied that Bush had any self-interested motive for pardoning Weinberger and five others: former national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane, former assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams, and three former CIA officials, Clair E. George, Alan D. Fiers Jr. and Duane R. "Dewey" Clarridge.

McFarlane, Abrams and Fiers all pleaded guilty to charges involving the withholding of information from Congress; George was convicted of two counts of lying to Congress, and Clarridge was scheduled to go on trial in March on seven counts of perjury and making false statements to Congress.

One senior administration source said the Bush notes about which Walsh spoke were just a "political diary" that Bush had started to keep in November 1986. The source said Bush had nothing to hide and would be willing to release these notes to the public. The source would not explain why Walsh only learned of the notes on Dec. 11.

Bush said yesterday he would make public a transcript of his own five-hour appearance before Walsh's lawyers in 1988, and said Weinberger planned to release all of his personal notes. "No impartial person has seriously suggested that my own role in this matter is legally questionable," Bush asserted.

In his proclamation granting "executive clemency" to Weinberger and the others, Bush described his pardons as part of a "healing tradition" as old as the Republic, citing precedents including President Andrew Johnson's pardon of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy and President Jimmy Carter's pardon of Vietnam-era draft dodgers. Yesterday's pardons, he suggested, were appropriate at the successful conclusion of the Cold War.

Bush also described the pardons as a response to "a profoundly troubling development in the political and legal climate of our country: the criminalization of policy differences. These differences should be addressed in the political arena, without the Damocles sword of criminality hanging over the heads of the combatants."

CONTINUED     1           >

© 1992 The Washington Post Company