Reagan's Iran-Contra Deposition
Sunday, June 20, 1999
Bob Woodward and Jeff Glasser
Editor's Note: Some typographical errors have been preserved from the original deposition transcript.
Friday, July 24, 1992
Lawrence E. Walsh, Esquire
John Q. Barrett, Esquire
Christina A. Spaulding, Esquire
Theodore B. Olson, Esquire
Fred Ryan, Esquire
I should say for the record that President Reagan has appeared voluntarily and he and his counsel have been very cooperative in trying to arrange this meeting.
If you are ready, we will begin.
Q: I thought for the first incidentally, did you give the President a little outline of what we think we're going to do or give it to counsel?
Mr. Barrett: (Handing documents.)
By Judge Walsh:
Q: You don't have to read it, Mr. President. It's just so that you know where we're going.
Q: I thought that for the first few minutes we would I would ask you about matters which will be of interest to whoever reads the report but are not very critical to the questions, but primarily are background, establishing who everyone is. It takes a few minutes to do that.
I will start by asking a very simple question and that is that you were President of the United States from January, 1981 until January, 1989. I think we can have agreement on that.
Q: You were re-elected in 1984 and began your second term in January of 1985. At that time the national security departments were headed I would say by the State Department was headed by Secretary Shultz, George Shultz? Would that be correct, sir?
A: I think so but I can't swear anymore. I know there were changes that came along and so forth in there but I think that you're right.
Q: All right. We have agreed with counsel that after the transcript is made that they will review it with you and if we should make an inadvertent error, why that could be corrected so it's nothing to be worried about.
Secretary Weinberger was Secretary of Defense during all of your well, through 1987?
Q: And Edwin Meese started as counselor to the President during your first term of office and then became Attorney General during the second term of office. Would that be approximately correct?
A: I take your word for it here. I don't remember the times in which those changes and things were made but that is true of Ed.
Q: Right. I just wondered if you could relax just a minute and tell us who I haven't worked around presidents very often the way in which your staff functioned. Maybe I'll lead you a little bit.
During your second term was Bud McFarlane the national security adviser?
A: I can't tell you or remember when Bud left that job.
Q: Would it have been approximately December 5th, 1985?
A: I can't remember. I just know that I had him in that position for a while and I know that he did rather well.
Q: He was succeeded by Admiral Poindexter?
A: Yes, because Poindexter had been kind of second in command.
Q: Yes. When I'll use their first names just to make it easier for you when Ed Meese became Attorney General, Don Regan moved into the White House as your chief of staff. Would that be approximately correct?
A: You know, this is awful for me to say but with this lapse of time I don't recall. The names of course are familiar to me and the fact that they served, but I don't recall when such a change was made.
Q: Do you remember that Mr. Baker swapped jobs with Don Regan when Baker left as your chief of staff and became Secretary of the Treasury and Don Regan left as Secretary of Treasury and became your chief of staff?
A: Yes, and that was a trade that the only thing that I can recall about that was they wanted to make that trade. That wasn't an idea or mine.
Q: And you authorized that to go forward?
Q: The work was could you tell us a little bit how the work was divided between Don Regan and Bud McFarlane?
A: No, I can't. I just have to tell you that all of this and every day the whole history of this took place after we were I was out of the Governor's office and Nancy and I started talking on how little we could remember about what took place because there was always you were in motion always and that was what led to in the President's job, that's what led to the diaries was because we remembered that we just couldn't pin down the happenings in those eight years when I was the Governor.
Q: Then it was even worse, I would imagine, when you became President?
Q: The pressures were worse between the combination of ceremonial activities and very important decisions, one right after the other?
A: Well, I can't say no to that because there were some of those people that had been with me when I was Governor and we had come to know each other very well and I had confidence in them and their approach to the job and all, but I have no specific memory as to
Q: I'm just trying to think of who was with you from California. That would include Attorney General Meese?
Q: And Secretary Weinberger?
Q: It would not include Shultz. He came from the Nixon administration, right?
A: That's right.
Q: Were there others? Mr. Deaver? Was he in the California administration with you?
A: I'm going to have to think.
Q: Well, don't
A: I honestly can't swear to that. I'd hate to have him hear me say that.
Q: If I knew, I'd lead you. I just thought of him as one. Judge Clark had been in your administration?
Q: And then he subsequently became Secretary of Interior?
A: I think that Deaver was in both areas but I can't be sure.
Q: I'm just trying to think how I worked for a governor for a long time so I have some idea of what the pressure is, but when I worked in Washington I was in the Justice Department and I didn't work in the White House so I don't understand fully the pressures there.
Did you have many one on one meetings with Cabinet officers? I think the public would think that you had a Cabinet that you could talk to almost daily, whereas in fact conversations with department heads was a relatively rare activity. Would that be a fair statement or in error?
A: Well, mainly the meetings would be sought by individuals and I had a rule with all of our people there that I wanted to be available to someone who felt they had a need to see me about something.
Q: So that they didn't necessarily go through your chief of staff or the national security adviser? they could come and talk to you directly?
A: I don't actually recall whether that was true or not or whether they made contacts in advance before coming in to see me. I don't know.
Q: In the course of an ordinary day would you see more than perhaps one Cabinet officer except in large meetings?
A: Oh, No. I don't think it was a daily thing for them because there were regular meetings at which I would see them, Cabinet meetings and so forth.
Q: So the department heads who were running very large departments of their own would ordinarily meet in the White House in the course of a Cabinet meeting or a National Security Council meeting or some other group meeting like that?
Q: And very occasionally if they felt the need to talk with you personally, you would make an appointment so that they could come and see you?
A: Yes. I was never beyond reach. I felt the need of being available.
Q: Let me talk for a minute about the hostages and again I'm talking very generally. I've been interested in how you became personally concerned with the fate of the Lebanese hostages.
A: Well, I felt very strongly about that because if I'm the commander in chief and along come these people over there as they did who were simply just bandits you might say, and they're picking people up for no other reason than to hold them in that way, I felt a great responsibility to try and find a way to get those people freed.
Q: Was this a matter that was on your personal agenda more or less that you kept in mind?
Q: Rather than being reminded of by others?
A: I was aware always of the people that were in that were held in that way.
Q: I believe one of your staff said that in the national security briefings in the early morning that perhaps between once a week and once a month you would personally raise the question of what was happening to the hostages.
A: I can't recall but usually I would think when I did raise that it would be trying to track down is there anything, any way that we can continue until we can get these people back.
Judge Walsh: Now I thought that as sort of a preliminary it might be useful to identify the diary entries where President Reagan has though they show his continuing concern. John Barrett has those, has the references to those if you'd like to see them.
Ours start with February 26, 1985 and I thought we would just have President Reagan identify them.
Would you by any chance have his diary that he would feel more comfortable or familiar with?
Judge Walsh: Do you have the pages with you?
Mr. Olson: We do have the pages, the same Xerox copies of the pages that Mr. Barrett looked at earlier in the week, and whatever you would prefer.
Judge Walsh: All I was going to do was to ask him whether in fact on February 26th, 1985 he has a note in there, "NSC briefing. Assad seems to be making effort to get victims back from Hezbollah."
Mr. Olson: Oh, I don't have I have just the Xerox copy of the pages that John referred to, so if you have those typed out, we can you can whatever you would prefer.
Judge Walsh: All right. I could just read them. I just was going to ask the President whether he had any recollection of President Assad's efforts to help on the hostages.
The Witness: Well, I felt a great responsibility that as long as they were prisoners I would like to find some way to get them.
Mr. Olson: Mr. President, Judge Walsh has referred to a typewritten transcription of an entry from your diary for February 26th, 1985 which is these three lines here (indicating). Would you like to read that?
The Witness: Yes. "NSC briefing report. Assad seems to be making an effort to get four kidnap victims back from Hezbollah."
Well, all I can ever say about that is that just that that was on my mind all the time that it was my obligation to try and free people that had been kidnapped as they had been.
I can't remember what specific things and steps I did, but I do know that it was just a major problem for me.
Q: You don't happen to remember this particular incident and what President Assad was trying to do? Does that come back?
A: No, and you know something, I'm trying o remember now who was Assad.
Q: He was the president of Syria at the time when Syria had an influence in Lebanon and I think you were hoping that he would help you.
A: Well, again, this is something I don't remember.
Q: You do remember though your devoted interest in these hostages?
A: Oh, yes.
Q: There is another one on March 21st where you have a notation, "Heartbreaking photos of kidnap victims."
A: I don't recall that at all.
Q: That again would show your continuing concern.
Q: Then on May 28th, 1985, you note that there is an additional kidnapping, a new kidnapping.
A: Well, now I couldn't speak to that other than to say that it was a thing that happened with more than just the original four. There were people being kidnapped but I don't have the memory of it where I could say oh, yes, I remember this incident.
Q: Would you remember in June of 1985, June 14th, that there was a hijacking of a TWA flight and the whole flight was captured?
A: I don't have a memory of that.
Q: It may prove to have some importance to you because there was the thought that Iran had been instrumental in getting the hostages in getting the flight released. I don't know whether
A: I would have to be reminded of that. I'm quite sure it happened but I don't have any memory of it.
Q: If it's in your diary, I assume that that was your memory on that day when you put it in there.
Q: There were several entries in there, Mr. President, on the 14th, the 15th, the 16th, and the 17th. I think this was an important event at that time.
A: Yes, it must have been but I'd have to have it recalled to me.
Q: In your diary on July 3rd, 1985 there is reference to an NSPG meeting regarding the seven kidnapped victims and Lebanon generally.
A: Well, I know that it was very much on my mind, this thing, because they were taken over, that matter in Lebanon, by just outright kidnappers and so forth and that the only thing I know is they had been trying to get some leads on these kidnappers was that they did kind of lean toward Iran. This was their background and so forth and this was a problem that stayed with me for a long time about these people and how we could get them out.
Judge Walsh: I unfortunately don't have the minutes for this meeting since your partner started with July 4th giving us the minutes, but we have a memorandum from Mr. McFarlane to the President attaching a cable which he thought was important and there is a note on it by the President that might bring back to mind this meeting.
Mr. Olson: This is a memorandum to the President
Judge Walsh: from Bud McFarlane, attaching a cable.
Mr. Olson: Dated July 3rd.
Judge Walsh: July 3rd, yes. That was the same day of the NSPG meeting.
Mr. Olson: Would you like the President to read this?
Judge Walsh: I would ask the President to look at that for a second. I just want to see if this brings it back to mind.
Mr. Barrett: Simply for the record, this is a binder we have marked as RR-1 which contains documents we might refer to during this interview.
Mr. Olson: Excuse me. Did you want the President also to read the attached cable or not?
Judge Walsh: He may or if he sees fit the only purpose of the document is to see if it reminded him of that July 3rd meeting which is only, again, a step in the chronology to bring his mind back to 1985.
The Witness: That little note there (indicating) is my writing that I've read this. I wish I had read it before the meeting. It would have given me a lot to think about.
I don't have a memory of this.
Q: You are perfectly free to take a look at the cable. It may be it describes the Lebanese situation generally and it confirms what you've just said about that.
Mr. Barrett: It's quite lengthy.
Judge Walsh: I think we can just let it go at that.
Mr. Olson: You don't need to read it.
The Witness: Okay.
Q: Mr. President, do you remember an Israeli by the name of Kimche, K-i-m-c-h-e? He was like Phil Habib. He was the career head of their foreign service or the head of the career foreign service as distinguished from those appointed by the various administrations.
A: I don't have a memory of him.
Q: You don't remember McFarlane dealing with him at all in connection with the recovery of the hostages?
A: Well, McFarlane and others in pursuit of their duties, they did things like this and contacted people and all, and probably they took me in on this. Again, I just don't have a memory of it.
Q: In pursuing your concern for the hostages, do you recall who it was that you would work with in trying to get action out of the Government in that respect?
A: Oh, Lord, it was very much on my mind and I think I talked to everybody about it in trying to find a way that we could get them freed. We knew we couldn't go in and try to kidnap them or something. They would be dead before we got there.
Q: So it came down to trying to develop a channel that would be persuasive with the kidnappers?
A: Yes. The one thing that I do recall with that was that there was some group we were in contact with of decent Iranians and who were trying to maintain the strength of Iran and their military and all that because these people that had kidnapped our people did have a connection with Iran.
I used to talk to these other people about the ways that they could take advantage of that Iranian leaning of the kidnappers in some way that we could get our people released by the kidnappers, and yet I don't have any details about meetings or anything but I do know that we had that contact with other group of people.
Q: When you said that you tried to talk with them, that would be through others in the Government, not personally?
A: That's right. I didn't talk to them.
Q: Was Bud McFarlane the center of that activity for a while?
A: I don't know whether we could call it the center or not but he was one who would be aware of my feeling about that. I was hoping that he and the others like him would be able to do something.
Q: Do you think of others, Mr. President, at the moment besides McFarlane with whom you might have dealt?
A: Not anymore.
Q: You had a task force on counter-terrorism. Do you remember that? I think Vice President Bush headed it.
A: I had forgotten about that.
Q: I just was thinking of the things that you did to try to reduce terrorism in the world.
A: I think what it is I'm embarrassed here. I don't want it to seem to be that I wasn't aware of any of these things that were going on. I just don't have any memory of the specifics.
Q: I think the record shows that you were aware.
Q: We'll sort of stay with the record then.
Q: It so happened, Mr. President, that Mr. Kimche was in Washington at about the time of this NSPG meeting we've been talking about and about the time you received this memorandum from Mr. McFarlane. I just wondered whether you had any recollection of McFarlane at that time coming to you with some new project for the recovery of the hostages.
A: No, and I have to tell you that my memory with regard to names is just terrible.
Q: All right, sir.
A: You know there was something like, wasn't it 1200 people that surrounded me there in the office as part of the staff and I didn't remember names.
Q: I started out to try to get the picture of the President, Mr. President, and I sort of stopped and maybe I could come back for a minute.
With a government made up of massive departments like State and Defense, CIA, and others, most of the activities in government go on out in the departments.
Q: And only when there is a serious problem do they bother you as president by and large? Would that be a fair statement?
A: Well, I know that they did keep me informed and all but as the years have gone by, I don't have specific memories of that.
Q: Would most of the communications from the other parts of the government come to you through your staff?
A: Yes, I would believe that.
Q: Then if there was something of extraordinary urgency, a Cabinet officer might come to see you personally?
A: Oh, yes.
Q: And at other times you have regular Cabinet meetings which would bring all of the Cabinet officers together?
Q: And you would have NSPG meetings or NSC meetings which would bring the national security department heads together to talk with you collectively?
Q: So that was more or less the system by which it worked?
Q: Your days included not only these very important meetings, but also from time to time ceremonial meetings where people just came to see the President of the United States?
A: Oh, yes.
Q: And you had to keep interrupting and go from one to the other all day long?
Q: Through these activities you preserved personally your concern for the hostages. Would that be a fair statement?
A: Yes. They were very much on my mind.
Q: And you didn't need anyone to remind you of them. You were reminding others?
Q: Okay. Now we've come to when you went to the hospital. You had an operation in July of 1985 and I think the next diary entry is in there.
Mr. Barrett: That's July 17th.
Q: July 17th, right. At that time there is a reference it says
Mr. Olson: Excuse me for interrupting but this is a typewritten transcript of one of your diary entries, Mr. President, and Judge Walsh is about to refer to the one on July 17th, 1985.
Q: July 17th. It says, "Strange soundings coming from Iranians. Bud McFarlane will be here tomorrow to talk about it. Could be a breakthrough on seven kidnap victims. Evidently the Iranian economy disintegrated fast under strain of war."
A: The only think I can think about this is the time when I was having communication with these Iranian people and trying to get them to contact those bandits in return for some help that we would do, not through the bandits, but through that group of responsible people because of the troubles and what they were very interested in was helping maintain the quality of their own military.
That's about as far as I can remember on any of this or the happenings.
Q: If you will look at the next diary entry which is July 18th, 1985, it says
A: I have no memory of that either.
Q: "Bud came by. It seems two members of Iranian government want to establish talks with us. I am sending Bud to meet them in a neutral country."
A: And I don't have any memory of that.
Q: That does confirm your general feeling that it was about this time you tried to stimulate the moderate Iranians to persuade the kidnappers to let the hostages go.
Q: After you left the hospital, Mr. President, there was a meeting in the family quarters while you were recuperating which was attended by Bud McFarlane, Secretary Shultz and Secretary Weinberger
A: And again I don't have any memory of that.
Q: Do you have any memory of any discussion at all of a proposal to send 100 TOWs to show the good faith of your negotiators at that time?
Mr. Olson: I don't know I think the President didn't hear your words.
Q: Do you have any memory in the summer of 1985 after you left the hospital of a proposal to let the Israelis give the Iranians a small amount of weapons to show your good faith in trying to restore friendly relations?
A: All I remember I have a dim memory of, through Israel, they would make available the weapons to the Iranians but we would replace the weapons to Israel. It's just I don't have any more memory of that or how many we did or what we did except that that was the way that we would not be trying to deal directly with the bandits and so forth but this group of people from Iran wanted to maintain their military strength and help maintain that and we did have an agreement with the sale of weapons to Israel.
I do remember that we did something of that kind and we replaced with Israel what they had seen the Iranian people.
Q: Do you associate that with a period shortly after you left the hospital in the summer of '85?
A: I can't. I don't have much of a memory either of that period or when that took place.
Q: In your diary on July 27th and July 28th, 1985, there is an entry "P.M. Nakasone," N-a-k-a-s-o-n-e, "sending emissary, very hush hush."
A: I don't have any memory of what that could be.
Q: Would he be the prime minister of Japan?
A: I think so.
Q: Were you trying to use them also as a way of reaching the Iranians?
A: No, and I don't know what that would have been about.
Q: All right, sir.
A: I'm very embarrassed. I'm sorry.
Q: This was a long time ago.
A: It's like I wasn't president at all.
Q: We can attest to that. I'm sort of trying to touch things that might bring back a memory. On August 9th, 1985, there is a diary entry, "Signed 50 pictures for returned TWA hostages." Do you remember doing that?
A: On that point I would have to tell you that if there is one thing that I did a hell of a lot of it was sign pictures.
Q: All right, sir. That wasn't a very good item to remind you of things.
On August 28th, 1985 there is a diary entry
Mr. Olson: Do you mean August 23rd?
Judge Walsh: August 23rd; excuse me.
Q: "Received secret phone call from Bud McFarlane. Seems a man high up in the Iranian government believes he can deliver all or part of the seven kidnap victims. I had some decisions to make about a few points but they were easy to make. Now we must make."
A: Again, I don't have a memory of what the hell that would have been.
Q: Does that confirm your thought, a point you were thinking about, letting the Israelis proceed in replacing their weapons?
A: I suppose but as I say, right now I can't remember what this was all about or what we were doing.
Q: Do you remember when the Reverend Weir was released as a hostage, W-e-i-r, in September of 1985? Do you remember that happening?
A: Again, I know that it happened and all but I can't remember now the facts around that. I even had to be reminded of his name.
A: Now that I stop and think, well, yes, I think there was a Reverend Weir among those people. I have to take the word of my own diaries and so forth on that. But I certainly can't
Q: We'll say that they are the best evidence of what you were thinking at the time would be in your diary.
A: I suppose.
Q: Do you remember any discussions at that time about the Israelis having sent weapons prior to his release?
A: No, I don't. I don't remember that at all.
Q: Do you associate that with the release of Weir at all?
Q: There is a very interesting one on September 17th. It states "Told by mystery man in Beirut that others will follow." Do you remember who that was?
A: Well now things of that kind happened and went on but I have no memory of them.
Mr. Olson: Would this be a good time to take a break?
Judge Walsh: Oh, sure.
Mr. Olson: Let's take a break at this point.
The Witness: When I left the Governor's Office, Nancy and I talked about how little we could remember of all the happenings and the things that went on because it was a busy life and so forth and yet we had no memory of much of the things we had accomplished and all of that.
That was why when the presidency came along in fact, I can remember that sometimes I would ask somebody in some of the morning meetings that we had, come the end of the day I would ask someone, "Do you remember what we talked about this morning?" and I was amazed at how many of them could not remember just throughout the day what we had talked about which kind of eased my mind a little bit because I didn't want to seem totally ignorant.
But then when the presidency came along, Nancy and I reminded ourselves of this thing of the governorship and that's when we decided we'd better keep diaries of what went on and we kept the diaries.
But as I told you, I read them now and I still can't remember the happening that I've written about.
Judge Walsh: It's very difficult. Mr. President, if it makes you feel any better, just in trying to write a final report on the last five years, I'm having more trouble than I think you're having.
The Witness: I'm glad to hear that.
Judge Walsh: So it's the two of us, regardless of the subject matter.
(Whereupon, a brief recess was taken and the interview continued.)
Q: Mr. President, I'll go to September, 1985 and we'll just keep going through the notes and if they spark a recollection, you tell us.
On September 23rd 28th, I guess it is
Mr. Olson: 23rd.
Q: There is a reference to President Mubarek and Arafat. Is there any chance that you would remember what that effort was?
A: No, and I can't even place the names, who they are. I know I'm familiar with those names but I can't that I've heard them and all, but I can't, I just can't place them.
Q: There is another report on September 29th, 1985 in your diary, "Unconfirmed report on six kidnap victims."
A: And that I can't remember.
Q: This was just after Weir was released apparently. You were getting rumors, I suppose, about the possibility of release of others.
A: That and the next one about the family, I know that I did that. I know that not that particular thing but I saw families of people who were treated this way and that sort of thing, but I can't particularly say them, who they were or where.
Q: Is this October 28th?
Q: I want to ask you about that because as I have heard, you were very generous in having the families see you and you also I think went to Arlington when the young sailor for the ceremony for the young sailor who was killed on the TWA hijacking, and I think you may have gone up there on Armistice's Day too, you and Mrs. Reagan.
A: Very easily could. We did that a number of times but I can't remember specifically.
Q: I just wondered whether these meetings would intensify your efforts in this recovery undertaking.
A: You mean seeing the families?
A: I just felt the need for that, or if it was someone that was killed in action and that sort of thing, I just felt that I ought to do anything I could to ease the pain, if possible, of the families.
Q: In this meeting on October 28th, would McFarlane and North be at a meeting like that where you had the hostage families?
A: I don't particularly recall that, no.
Q: They were meeting with you primarily?
Q: I'm moving now into November of 1985. John Barrett has a calendar for you here and I have one that's not as neat. If you will take just a minute, you will see that you leave for Geneva on Saturday, November 16th and then you're in Geneva until the following Thursday.
A: Was this the summit meeting to meet for the first time with Gorbachev?
Q: Yes, sir.
A: Oh, because that was yes, the Geneva meeting. When he took office and so forth and we felt definitely our people were felt that we should have a summit meeting with him and get to know him and so forth because he had been appointed to be head man over there.
He replied to our people in the invitation that no, he wanted it in a neutral country, our summit meeting. He didn't say no to a summit meeting but he wanted it neutral.
We said yes and he was the one that then said by virtue of that in Switzerland we have the meeting, and so we agreed to that.
We had quite a meeting there with him and his people. I can remember a few things about that because of the oddity of it. We decided that the subject of the summit meeting would be mutual reduction of armaments and he agreed on that, so we were there and we got there before he did and we were whose home was it? It was somebody in government in Switzerland, but Nancy and I were put up there.
Then the first meeting with him, real meeting, it was going to be the first meeting in a big home along Lake Geneva and at a table like this only a little longer he and his team on one side and me and my team on the other to deal with the weapons.
I told my people what I was going to do so they wouldn't be surprised. As everybody started to sit down, I looked across the table at him and I said, "Why don't we let our two teams start this discussion about the reduction of the weaponry and all and why don't you and I get some fresh air?
He was out of his chair before I finished that sentence, and there he was. So he and I left and we walked about a hundred and fifty yards down across the lawn to the lake where there was a beach house, and again I had told our people about this. It was cold, a real wintery day and that beach house had a big roaring fire going in the fireplace.
We entered and in there were the two translators. I stopped him before we even sat down and looked right at him and I said, "I'm going to give you a quotation that's not mine. Someone else has said that we mistrust each other because we're armed." I said, "I believe we're armed because we mistrust each other."
Then I said, "I think that we" this thing about our people negotiating a reduction of arms with them, "and wouldn't it be fine if we would spend just as much time trying to find out the reasons for our mistrust?"
He was you know, I had had three of those guys while I was president before him. They kept dying on me. But they were typical Soviets. You knew that they hated your guts. But he was different, he seemed different.
I said to him that we should do this and I said, "The only alternative to this is we resume the arms race," Then, looking him right in the eye, I said, "That is a race you can't win. There is no way we're going to permit you to be superior to us in weaponry."
So he took that and we sat down and the meeting went underway for an hour and a half. Then I figured that we'd better get back up to the rest of the people, so we got up and we started back up the hill. We got right near the house and back where the cars were all parked, and I said to him, I said, "You never" found out in our talks that he was a great traveler. He had been all over Europe. I said to him, "But you've never been in the United States."
I said, "Why don't we agree that the next summit meeting in the coming year will be in the United States?" and he said, "Agreed," but he said, "The one after that will be in Moscow." I said, "Agreed."
I couldn't wait to get to our people because they had told me that it was a miracle that we were having this summit meeting with him and that we couldn't expect anything more, and when I was able to tell our people that there will be two more summits in the next two years, one in the United States and one in Moscow, they just couldn't believe it. They didn't know what had happened, but it did happen.
A: Now there are a few things I guess like that that I can remember because of their very oddity, but the rest of it I'm not fooling when I say that when I started reading the diary the other day, I couldn't even remember writing the things that I was writing about.
Q: I think this is so readily understandable when you have to build up to these tremendous occasions. Even though you are giving attention to less important things, you cannot hold them in your memory while you are trying to integrate a very complicated plan to deal with important problems. We all understand that.
It's with a full respect of the achievement that you've just described that I come back now and ask you about these hostages which you were good enough to always keep a personal concern for not matter what else you were doing.
So what I was going to ask you is whether after the meeting in your that you describe on October 28th with the hostage families, and before you meet with Mr. Gorbachev, in that period between the end of October and when you leave for Geneva, do you recall a discussion of the hostage problem and the sale letting Israel again sell weapons to Iran to secure their release?
A: Well, the only thing I know about or can repeat about that and the hostage families was that they wanted to know was there anything being done about their loved ones who were in the hands of the kidnappers and so forth, so I did have a policy of going out of my way to let them know that we were actively trying to get freedom for all of our hostages, wherever they were.
In that way, I can remember here and there I couldn't give you names or anything but I can remember that sometimes the hostage families I went to them, and sometimes they came to the White House. There were all kinds of meetings of that kind because there were in addition to the kidnap victims, there were injuries and there were people that were killed and so forth in various well, just by tragedies.
That accounted also for some of the people that we were sending into space, the once big accident that they had, that I went out of my way to see those families.
Q: I'm going to ask after that visit and before you left for Geneva, that first week in November, whether you remember a national security briefing with Bud McFarlane present and Don Regan present in which McFarlane raised the Israeli proposal that they send HAWKs to Iran. HAWKs were bigger missiles than you had been dealing with. Originally it was TOWs which is an anti-tank missile, and then the HAWKs were anti-aircraft missiles.
It was in this period that they recall excuse me that Don Regan recalls and believes that McFarlane briefed you on a HAWK missile shipment that would lead to the release of the hostages. I don't know whether you remember that.
A: I don't have a memory of that.
Q: It was while you were getting ready for this very important meeting in Geneva but it was a hostage proposal.
A: No, I don't remember. The only things I really have memories of are down there at the bottom, the 26th, when I depart Washington, D.C. for California. I rode a horse every morning at the ranch and in the afternoon we pruned oak trees.
Q: That sounds like a very constructive undertaking.
Can we have the Cabinet meeting just before Geneva, the President's schedule. I think it would be on I guess it would be the 14th excuse me. It would be the 13th actually. It's Don Regan's schedule.
Mr. Barrett: Mr. President, this is Donald Regan's schedule. It's tab 4 in the exhibit book. This is the Wednesday prior to Geneva, November 13th.
Q: So this is the Regan schedule for Wednesday, November 13th, 1985.
A: This is that one day?
Q: This is one day.
Mr. Olson: In Don Regan's schedule.
The Witness: Oh, Don Regan's. I hadn't read that part yet.
Judge Walsh: We don't have President Reagan's schedule. This is the only one that we have.
Q: When you look at it, Mr. President, you will see there was a Cabinet meeting and then before that there was a meeting with Secretary Weinberger. I think the Cabinet meeting was probably to inform them of what was going to happen in Geneva, or at least your aspirations for Geneva, but I'm not sure.
A: I have to tell you, no memory comes to mind about these things.
Q: This is three days before leaving for Geneva. It's the last Cabinet meeting before Geneva. What I'm really going to ask you about is the meeting with Secretary Weinberger.
A: I don't have any memory of that or what it would be about.
Q: Let me just suggest one possibility and then if you don't remember, that's fine. He, as you may remember, opposed the arms transactions, sending arms letting the Israelis send arms to Iran.
A: I don't have any memory of that.
Q: I was going to ask you whether on that day before the Cabinet meeting he expressed to you personally his opposition to trading these arms to the Iranians because by then he had heard McFarlane's proposal.
A: And I don't have any memory of that either.
Q: Then in Geneva, after you had arrived there when you were staying in the home that you described with Mrs. Reagan, do you remember McFarlane telling you about his expectation that there would be an arms delivery to Iran preceded by the release of hostages?
A: No, I don't remember that.
Q: Do you remember McFarlane remembers it as the two of you standing with raincoats in the front door of that house while he told you.
A: I can't remember that. Here and there I remember something about the other people and that they told me, for example, that having that summit meeting was a miracle and that was and that would be the only one, and that's why I got such a pleasure out of astounding them that there were already two more scheduled, but they thought that it was just a miracle that we were having the ones we were having.
Q: These little things that were intruding while you were having this major accomplishment, Don Regan remembers McFarlane telling you in a little girl's bedroom with you sitting in the chair and him and McFarlane sitting on the bed. He wrote this in his book, that at that time McFarlane told you that there would be an arms delivery and a hostage release. It was expected a day or two later right after the Geneva meeting.
A: I'm amazed that I can't remember that but I don't.
Q: Well, you just told us what you were really thinking about. You have no recollection of the hostage transaction being discussed there in Geneva?
Judge Walsh: Do we have a diary note on this?
Q: Mr. President, could I ask it this way? Do you remember having any hope that you might be able to bring the hostages home with you from Europe as you returned from the summit?
A: I honestly no, I don't have any memory of that at all.
Q: I think on the evening you returned, you had a very, very long day and addressed a joint session of Congress on that Thursday, the 21st.
A: I came home by way of that, yes. Before we landed at home, if I remember correctly, I went to the Congress from the plane.
Q: Exactly right. You started in Geneva, went to Brussels, and then briefed Congress, and then got home that night.
A: Yes. I'll bet you're all wondering who the hell was really acting as president in those days.
Q: We know who handled the summit.
Judge Walsh: So the first entry on the President's schedule is
Mr. Barrett: the 22nd.
Q: That's the day after you get back. The diary notes "Back to the office for a brief NSC." That would be the national security briefing, I imagine, NSC. That would be the morning briefing by McFarlane?
A: I suppose so, yes. "The subject our hostages in Beirut."
Q: "The subject was our hostages in Beirut. We have an undercover thing going by way of an Iranian which could get them sprung momentarily."
A: Now I don't remember what the hell that is.
Q: Then on the following day, Saturday, November 23rd, "Still sweating out our undercover effort to get hostages out of Beirut."
A: All of those things were, you know, were so prevalent and everything that I just don't have a clear cut memory of the specific meetings or anything on it.
Q: If you look at your calendar, on November 24th and November 25th, the Israelis sent HAWKs to Iran and they were the wrong kind and the Iranians protested.
Mr. Olson: There's not
Judge Walsh: It's not in there. I just wondered if you remember the upset about, or the disappointment about a HAWK shipment that instead of helping with the Iranians angered them.
The Witness: No, I don't remember that.
Q: They tried to ship it through Portugal and the Portuguese wouldn't let the Israelis land and then they sent it across Turkey into Iran?
A: I don't remember that.
Q: You don't remember that at all?
Q: On Tuesday, November 26th, we get to a pleasant subject. You go to California.
Q: I guess I'm going to spoil it a little bit. Do you remember any discussion at that time of a finding to validate the CIA activities in connection with that HAWK shipment?
A: No, I don't.
Q: Do you remember Casey sending over a finding to Poindexter because they had used a CIA proprietary to try to help the Israelis?
A: I don't know.
Q: All right, sir.
A: I only know that when I would come out to California to the ranch, we would land down here at the naval base and get in a Marine helicopter and fly right up to the ranch and there we were.
Q: Shut the rest of the world out?
Q: Do you remember Poindexter in this period, either just before you went to California or just after you came back, suggesting that you give up the Iranian initiative because of the disappointment over the HAWK shipment?
A: No, I don't remember anything like that.
Judge Walsh: Let's see. When does the President get back?
Mr. Barrett: Monday, December 2.
Judge Walsh: All right.
Q: In that first week in December, Mr. President, there was a reappraisal of this Iranian effort and the hostage effort in the light of the disappointing outcome of the HAWK shipment. Do you remember getting ready for a meeting on Saturday, December 7th, where this was all going to be reviewed by Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, and the CIA, as well as
A: I don't have any particular memory of that.
Q: Do you remember any memorandum from Colonel North or from Admiral Poindexter that suggested to you that if you withdrew from this effort that it might lead to the killing of the hostages?
A: No, I can't I know that we always lived with the fear of our hostages being killed and it just was a pain that I carried in the back of my head every in every case of imprisonment by these hostile people or other hostile people, so I don't remember any particular thing about that.
Q: Do you remember developing a plan for shipping TOW missiles through Israel in larger numbers, say 3300, moving up from a few hundred to up into the thousands?
A: I can't say that I specifically remember. I just have a general faint memory about various things and weapons and so forth, but no, I don't have any memory of that.
Q: I think we come to the December 7th meeting. Is there a diary entry? There's a diary entry on December 5th. Let's see what that says. That's on Thursday.
"NSC briefing. Probably Bud's last. Subject our undercover effort to free our five hostages held by terrorists in Lebanon. It is a complex undertaking with only a few in on it. I won't even write it up in this diary what we are up to."
Does that remind you at all of the beginning of a new evaluation of the effort?
A: No, except I can understand why I was even a little hesitant about what I put in the diary. My memory here I don't remember any of this about the complex plan.
Mr. Olson: He is now reading the December 7th entry.
Judge Walsh: That's okay. He can read anything he wants to. It's his operation.
Q: I was actually reading about the one first. I was going to ask you about the December 7th one in a few minutes anyhow, Mr. President, so just read the two of them together and that will give you a better picture of it.
A: Okay. I have no more memory than is described there in that.
Q: On December 7th there were some pungent things said you may remember and we will get to that in a few minutes.
A: I have no fresh memory about all of this.
Q: Just so we're sure we have the record straight, on December 7th there is a long diary entry of yours and I'll just read it into the record.
This is a diary note. "Meeting with Regan, Weinberger, McFarlane, Poindexter, Shultz and McMahon" he was Casey's deputy in the CIA. "Complex plan. Israel selling weapons to Iran. Hostages released as soon as delivered in installments by air. U.S. replaces Israel weapons. Iranians pay cash. So does Israel. Shultz, Weinberger, Regan opposed. Congress has imposed law. Can't sell Iran weapons or sell any other country weapons for resale to Iran. Shultz thinks this violates our policy of not paying off terrorists. President claimed no ransom being paid. No direct sale would be made by us but we would be replacing the weapons sold by Israel. We are at a stalemate."
Mr. President, there was a meeting
Mr. Olson: May I interrupt?
Judge Walsh: Sure.
Mr. Olson: Only because what you were just reading is a little bit different in words than what the President has before him, I don't think in any substantive way.
Judge Walsh: I think we ought to mark that perhaps to get the more accurate version.
Mr. Barrett: This is a fuller version based on my recent review.
Judge Walsh: Let's mark this and we'll put this into the record because that's more accurate.
(Whereupon, Exhibit No. RR-2 was marked for identification.)
Q: Mr. President, do you remember a very frank discussion being held on this at the White House on a Saturday morning?
A: No. I'm sure there was from reading this but I don't have a clear memory of it. I couldn't even tell you what room we were in.
Q: Do you remember the question of legality coming up at all in the course of this discussion?
A: No, I don't.
Q: I think Secretary Weinberger's notes have this.
Mr. Barrett: This is tab 10 of the binder we have marked as RR-1.
Judge Walsh: Do you have a typed version?
Mr. Barrett: Yes. The typed version may be easier for you to read. These are Secretary Weinberger's notes.
The Witness: Yes.
Q: Does that sound like you?
A: Yes, it does. I don't have a memory of it all taking place but I can see that, yes, that would be my attitude. There were a number of things by this time that I about the Congress that I didn't lean toward them because they were the other party and that Congress was obstructing us well.
For example, I had eight budgets over the eight years, one each year, and the Constitution says to submit to Congress and I did. Eight times the Democratic Congress put my budgets on the shelf and declared them dead on arrival and then responded with thousands of pages of what they said was kind of a continuing resolution instead of a budget.
Under the damn law the way it was, I only had a choice of budgeting that or vetoing the entire thing in which case the Government would stop, everything of the Government, every activity of the Government.
I was just madder than the devil about them and their doing this to us. This was why something like in this and that supposed law about sending the arms, I felt that as far as being the President that a thing of this kind to get back five human beings from potential murder, yes, I would violate that other that law.
Q: In other words to avoid responsibility for the death of the hostages, you would explain to the American people why you violated the law?
Q: Do you remember any joking going on about visiting in prison with Secretary Weinberger and Secretary Shultz at this time?
A: No, I don't.
Q: This note your diary note and Secretary Weinberger's notes are essentially consistent. Do you have some memory of that sort of showdown at that point?
A: Just a kind of an indefinite memory that there were a number of times that this kind of difference between some of us on this and my memory is that I always stuck to getting back the people.
Q: All right, sir. After this meeting, Mr. President, McFarlane was sent to London. Do you remember by chance his going to London?
A: I can't remember why.
Q: In deference to the prosecutors, there was Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, and Don Regan who were all against this and you were gong to do it anyhow, but in deference to them, you sent McFarlane to London to see if he could get the Iranians to negotiate without selling any arms, just get them to be impressed with our desire to reopen friendly relations and see if they could negotiate along those lines and perhaps get the hostages released without shipping arms.
Do you remember McFarlane undertaking that?
A: No, I don't remember that that was why he went there. I can't even think of any reason for him going but I know that he did.
Q: Do you remember by chance his coming back on December 10th and being I think there is a diary entry on December 9th actually.
A: Oh, I see that there.
Q: Should I just read this into the record so we won't have any difficulty? On December 9th, 1985, the President's diary shows "Bud back from London but not in office yet. His meeting with Iranians did not achieve its purpose, to persuade them to free our hostages first. Their top man said he believed if they took the proposal to the terrorists, they would kill our people."
That was the proposal not to ship arms?
Q: Do you remember this, him impressing you with the gravity of the situation?
A: No. I know it's in my diary but I don't remember that.
Q: Then on December 10th we have an entry, "Iranian go-between turns out to be a devious character. Our plan regarding the hostages is a no-go."
Do you remember McFarlane being disappointed with Ghorbanifar, the Iranian?
A: No, I can't say that I do.
Q: And that the effort to get the hostages without weapons was essentially a no-go?
A: Well, we got them.
A: Yes, I think it was but I couldn't swear to it.
Q: In the December 5th entry you have that it was the last briefing by Bud McFarlane, the last time he briefed you for the national security briefing, and then Admiral Poindexter succeeded him. Do you see that on December 5th?
Q: Just to carry it along chronologically, you went home to California for Christmas and then in January there were two discussions leading up to a finding by you to provide for the continued effort to retrieve the hostages and to open our opportunities within Iran.
Mr. Olson: May I suggest that we have been going for 45 minutes again?
Judge Walsh: Yes. This would be a good time to break. The next passage will not be in detail. I'm just going to skim through early 1986, so this would be a good time to break.
Mr. Olson: Okay.
(Whereupon, a brief recess was taken and the interview continued.)
Mr. Olson: Okay.
Judge Walsh: We have marked it as an exhibit but maybe we can just read it.
Q: The first one is January 7th, 1986. it says "Highly secret, convoluted process that sees Israel freeing some 20 Hezbollahs who aren't really guilty of any blood-letting. At some time sell Iran some DOW" and I think that should be TOW "anti-tank weapons. We in turn sell Israel replacements and the Hezbollah free our five hostages. Iran also pledges no more kidnapping. We sit quietly by and never reveal how we get them back."
A: Well, I don't have any memory of that.
Q: Do you remember an Israeli named Nir, N-i-r, Amiram Nir, who worked with Oliver North on hostages after
A: I don't have a memory of that.
Q: After the HAWK shipment went sour in November of 1985, a new cast of personages came into the activity. Nir came in to replace the Israelis who had been working on it up until then, and North became increasingly important on the United States side working first for McFarlane and then for Poindexter.
So in early January they revived the plan which had been discussed by you in December, in that December meeting, where you and Secretary Weinberger had the exchange about protecting the hostages regardless of the law. So in January they're back again and that's what this is talking about, about the convoluted process.
The first proposal was for Israel to ship the arms and then the United States replace them. That's what I think you were talking about on January 7th. Then by January 16th, that had been replaced by the idea of the United States sending the arms directly through a private person to Iran and leaving the Israelis out of the transmission. I don't remember whether that comes back to you at all.
A: Well, I don't either. I don't remember that either. I know what I know explaining what it was referring to and that individual in Iran would be those people that we had first done business with there. They were moderate citizens and so forth and dealt with the military of their own country and all, but I don't have any memory of that.
Q: Do you remember signing a finding which authorized this type of activity?
A: No, I don't.
Q: Do you remember actually signing it twice, signing it by mistake the first time it was given to you to look at on January 6th, and then signing it over again on January 17th when a change had been made?
A: No, I don't.
Q: All right. That's in January. Then, just to fill in the gaps a little bit, in February the new system begins to go forward and Colonel North is being helped by General Secord and in February they send 500 TOWs and no hostages are released and they send 500 more, and then during that spring there is sort of a disappointing outcome. We send weapons but the hostages don't come out.
I don't know whether you have a generalized memory of that period of sort of concern
A: No, I'm sorry to say I haven't.
Q: We'll run through the entries then. On January the 10th there is an NSC meeting on whether to take on Congress for military aid to the Contras in Nicaragua. I think I'll leave the Contra area out for the time being, so this doesn't deal with Iran so we'll skip the January 10th meeting if that's all right.
Q: We'll go to January 17th. "The only thing waiting was NSC wanting decision on our effort to get our five hostages out of Lebanon. Involved selling TOW anti-war tank missiles to Iran. I have a go-ahead."
That had to be the day you signed the finding. Does that come back to you at all?
A: No, not really.
Q: Then on February 28th, that's six weeks later, February 28th, 1986, "This morning more word about possibility of getting our hostages out of Lebanon."
At this point there had been two TOW shipments of 5000 TOWs each and no hostages had come out and so there was concern on our side on what was going on. I don't know whether this reminds you of it or not.
Q: Then on April 18th it just says "NSC meeting regarding hostages." It's not very complete.
At this point you're beginning to think about sending McFarlane to Tehran and that actually came up in April and then was put off. I don't know whether you remember those discussions.
A: No, I don't.
Q: It was fairly complicated and there had to be talking points prepared and approved by the State Department and all that sort of thing when on.
Then on May 26th, 1986, there is an entry, "Waiting to hear if there is to be some movement on our hostages in Lebanon" and then on May 27th, 1986, "McFarlane mission to Tehran," on May 28th, 1986, "McFarlane mission to Tehran."
At this point Bud McFarlane, Colonel North, and George Cave are over in Tehran and they are trying to get the hostages out. The Iranians claim they weren't ready and McFarlane brought a partial plane load of HAWK spare parts with him and there is another plane load in Israel to deliver the rest when the hostages come out, and McFarlane won't bring the plane forward without the hostages and they are offering two hostages instead of all and Poindexter, I think speaking I assume speaking for you but this is something I'm not sure of Poindexter at least tells McFarlane that it's all or none and McFarlane takes the position all or none and comes back without any hostages.
I don't know whether you remember your participation in that at all.
A: I don't, no.
Q: Do you remember the trip that McFarlane made there?
A: No, I can't say that I do.
Q: It involved a certain amount of security risk because he, a former national security adviser, was putting himself in the hands of the Iranians.
A: I just
Q: All right, that's fine. I'll keep on with the story.
After McFarlane comes back, he reports to you his disappointment. You may remember that or not.
A: I don't.
Q: Then at that point there is a stalemate. The Iranians have paid for the HAWK spare parts and the Secord group has spent a lot of that so they don't have it to give back and McFarlane has stopped the second installment of spare parts from going forward so the plane is stuck in Israel.
So the Iranians want the spare parts, Ghorbanifar wants is afraid he's going to be shot because he has taken the Iranian money and given it to us and or he has borrowed money to give it to us, and he's in the hole financially and the Iranians won't pay him all they owe him and we won't deliver the HAWK parts.
Do you remember being brought into that kind of a controversy
Q: in May and June?
A: I hate to say it but I don't.
Q: It's pretty small compared with some of the things you were dealing with but it's an interesting standoff.
Then in June Poindexter says you authorized the completion of the delivery without getting the hostages, and then later Jenco was released in the sequence.
Do you remember these ins and outs?
Q: All right. Do you remember Jenco's release by chance in July of 1986? We're in '86 now.
A: It seems that I do. I can't make a picture of it in my own mind or anything but it just seems to me that, yes, I recognize the releasing of this man.
Q: So we get one more hostage out. Then another group in Lebanon kidnap three more. They weren't the same group that we had been dealing with. I don't know whether you remember that episode.
Q: You have a little note on Jenco's on July 26th down at the bottom of the page.
Q: And again on the 28th and on August 1st.
Q: I will ask you again generally whether you remember a shift in the channels through which we were approaching Iran, getting rid of Ghorbanifar and dealing with Rafsanjani's nephew. Do you remember that by any chance?
A: No, I don't.
Q: Do you remember working through what we thought was a more reliable group?
Q: Then in October there were 500 more TOWs sent. I don't know whether you would remember that.
Judge Walsh: Now I think we're up to November, 1986. This will be I'll have to ask more questions during this period and we are perfectly glad for the President to have the chart we gave you if you'd like it, but if it just adds to the confusion we will withhold it.
Mr. Olson: Whatever. I told John yesterday that I thought that it might be confusing rather than the other, but whatever way you would like to do. You might want to it's totally up to you.
Judge Walsh: Let's see how far we get. We don't have to get into that yet.
Q: In November 1986, Mr. President, on Election Day, which is November 4th, you returned from California about five o'clock in the afternoon.
A: Where is this?
Mr. Barrett: This is November, 1986.
The Witness: November 4th. I see it.
Mr. Barrett: November 4th.
Q: The Lebanese periodical has released the story of Bud McFarlane's visit, I think on November 3rd.
A: Oh, yes.
Q: There is an immediate public interest in the hostage effort, you may remember, that comes just right after Election Day.
A: I can't remember.
Q: All right. Let's go back to your diary entries. "On November 7th there is a discussion of how to handle the press who are off on a wild story build on an unfounded story originating in Beirut that we bought hostage Jacobsen's freedom with weapons for Iran. We've tried no comment. I proposed our message will be we can't and won't answer any questions on this subject because to do so will endanger the lives of those we are trying to help."
A: Well, I don't remember it but I agree with it.
Q: It sounds like it might be you talking?
Q: Do you remember Jacobsen coming out, a hostage by the name of Jacobsen being released in October, just before this?
A: No, I don't.
Q: At this point your concern, I take it from this entry, is primarily with controlling the press and not abandoning the initiative.
Q: There was no thought of abandoning the initiative at this point?
Q: You were concerned that there be no unnecessary comments because of the danger to the hostages on one hand and the danger to the Iranians that we were working with on the other hand, is that correct?
A: I don't really remember all of that but I agree with that.
Q: If it were put to you today, you would reach the same decision?
Q: All right. Now on Saturday we have another entry, on November 8th and 9th, Saturday and Sunday. This says "Talk shows re Iran. Don Regan called. We decided to meet Monday morning to get a handle on this."
A: I'll just have to accept that. I don't remember it.
Q: Okay. Then we come to a meeting on November 10th and there is a diary entry here.
Mr. Olson: May I
Judge Walsh: Sure.
Mr. Olson: I think that the exhibit you marked, and I don't know whether it has a number or not, has the summary that someone on your staff made of the diary entry which I don't think I just want to say for the record for example on that one, I have the copy that A.B. Culvahouse made, the actual transcript, and there are more words in there. I don't think in any instance the meaning has changed but I wanted to make sure I brought that out to you.
Judge Walsh: If you don't mind, Ted, could we have the more accurate version?
Mr. Olson: I don't have any objection to that at all. This is I don't know whether I am authorized to copy it given the way that it's marked but I think maybe we can talk about this.
Judge Walsh: Why don't we leave this for the possible any corrections we have to make in the deposition? We can do that then.
Mr. Olson: Okay.
The Witness: I will say one thing here. First of all, I do have a memory, and I don't know what to tie it to and when, of a sailor making this statement here, "who claims to have served on a ship carrying arms from Israel to Iran." I do remember that there was a character that made that statement somehow and whether I read it in the paper or what, I don't know, but I do remember that.
Q: You referred to it in your speech that comes along a little bit later and I think also in your press conference so you have that well in mind.
A: That's probably why I can say I remember it.
Q: You are right about the sailor.
Coming to the meeting on November 10th, your diary entry says "I ordered a statement to the effect we were not dealing in ransom but that we would not respond to any questions that could endanger hostage lives or lives of people we were using to make contact with the terrorists."
Then you describe the meeting. "At 11:30 a meeting in the Oval Office Don Regan, George Shultz, George Bush, Cap Weinberger, Bill Casey, Ed Meese, John Poindexter and two of his staff. The subject was the press storm charging that we are negotiating with terrorist kidnappers. Also that we are violating our own law about arms sales to Iran. They quote as Gospel every unnamed source plus such authorities as a Danish sailor who claims to have served on a ship carrying arms from Israel to Iran," and so forth.
Do you have a recollection of the meeting generally?
A: No. I do the only thing I have, and it's probably because I got it from the press or something, is this memory of a sailor claiming that he worked on a ship doing that.
Q: All right. Do you remember a discussion of whether the arms sales were legal or illegal?
A: I don't. I can't remember any of that.
Q: Do you remember the nature of the discussion? Do you remember Secretary Shultz being critical of the initiative?
Q: I don't think it's in your notes but do you remember that there was a division among your advisers with Shultz being quite critical and Poindexter still justifying the initiative?
A: Well,I know that there was some friction of some kind between several of the people there but I can't recall what it was about.
Judge Walsh: Do we have Weinberger's notes? Would that be
Mr. Barrett: Of November 10th? Yes.
Judge Walsh: Oh, I guess Don Regan's notes are the easiest to read.
Mr. Barrett: That's right. This is tab 25 in the binder.
Mr. Olson: Do you have them transcribed?
Miss Spaulding: The last page is the transcription.
The Witness: I was going to say I can't read that. I don't care if his name is Regan.
Mr. Barrett: Here's a typed version.
The Witness: He's a Regan and I'm a Reagan.
Q: I think, Mr. President, these are fairly important meetings, the 10th and the 12th, and perhaps it's easier if we go through them. According to Don Regan, you start out by justifying the initiative. You are staunchly supportive of the initiative through all of this.
"We have not dealt directly with terrorists, no bargaining, no ransom. Some things we can't disclose because of the long term consideration of people with whom we have been talking about the future of Iran. It's like the inability to talk to the Church committee on the CIA."
Unless you want to read Poindexter, he gives an outline of the initiative and then you come back in and say "We should put out a statement to show we want to get hostages back. Iranian contracts were for long range. Won't deal with terrorists, not ransom, but cannot get into questions and answers regarding hostages so as not to endanger them."
Then Shultz agrees with our responsibility to look after the hostages but he cautions against showing the juxtaposition of hostages and arms shipments. He doesn't know what the linkage is. He cautions you against overstating that the shipments were small and inconsequential and he blames the Israelis for our troubles.
I don't know whether any of this comes back to you at all.
A: I have not a memory of any of this.
Q: They agree they must get a statement. Everybody wants a statement out except Poindexter because everyone feels that all the speculation is hurting and that it's better to get the story out.
Your last statement is on the third page where it says, "The president says must say something because I am being held out to dry. Have not dealt with terrorists. Don't know who they are. This is a long range Iranian policy. No further speculation of answers so as not to endanger hostages. We won't pay any money or give anything to terrorists."
A: I don't recall that.
Q: It sounds like something you might say.
A: It does sound like something I might say but I have no memory of it.
Q: All right. Do you remember that most of the persons at the meeting were already to sign a statement saying they support the President's policies and Secretary Shultz saying, "I would rather say we support the President." He was willing to say he supported the President but not the policy.
A: I don't recall that.
Judge Walsh: Do we have the statement that was issued?
Miss Spaulding: Yes.
Judge Walsh: The President might remember his I think there was a statement put out through the press office on this.
Mr. Barrett: Mr. President, let me turn ahead to the actual statement that was issued which is right here on the top half of the page.
The Witness: I don't recall that but I can certainly see where I possibly I think that this expressed my views.
Q: And it was a public necessity at that point because of all the speculation?
Q: There are two or three things in there that I'd like to ask about. It recites unanimous support for the president which we have already talked about, and then it says "The President emphasized that no U.S. laws have been or will be violated."
Do you remember the basis for that statement?
Q: Do you remember whether there was any concern at that time about violating the Arms Export Control Act or something like that?
A: No, I can't.
Q: It seems that in the December 7th, 1985 meeting you took that head on, that to protect lives if you had to violate the law you would, and now in November of '86 there seems to be a suggestion that no laws were violated. I don't know whether you talked with the Attorney General or Mr. Wallison
A: I just can't give you a finding on that.
Q: All right, sir. Then you say "Our policy of not making concessions to terrorists remains intact."
Q: This is consistent with your view that we weren't trading with the terrorists, we were encouraging the Iranians for multiple purposes, including better relations, and incidentally hoping they would exercise their persuasive posers with the kidnappers.
A: Yes. This is all probable and possible and in keeping with things that I would be thinking.
Q: Right. The next thing is November 12th did I skip something?
Mr. Olson: No, you didn't. I was just going to ask you whether I don't know where we stand with respect to the sandwiches that were coming up, but I'm suggesting that we're getting close to the time, but again, whatever you say.
Judge Walsh: No, this is just fine. What I'm going to cover is the November 10th meeting and the November 12th meeting and I'll pick up all the diary entries in between, and then we'll go to November 24th and I think that will get us through November.
I would say that there is probably an hour because there will be a lot of going back and forth to the diary so that all takes a little time. I think it looks like maybe an hour more.
Mr. Olson: That's fine.
Mr. Barrett: We can go off the record.
(Discussion off the record.)
(Whereupon, a luncheon recess was taken and the interview continued.)
Q: Mr. President, I have a few more questions on the meeting on November 10th so I'll go back to that just for a second.
In the diary entry there is a statement, "Also that we are violating our own law about arms sales to Iran."
I'm going to on each of these meetings ask you to try to focus on who raised this question about the law if you can remember because I understood your position which was that you were going to save the hostages and the Arms Export Control law you could explain, but there is a suggestion either that the law was violated and I wondered who was concerned, whether it was Don Regan, or Wallison, or Attorney General Meese, or whether you were concerned about it.
A: I can't help you. I've got no memory about this at all.
Q: All right. But do you see the entry in your diary there? There is that one sentence in there where you say "Also that we are violating our own law about arms sales to Iran." Now that's what someone said in the meeting.
Mr. Olson: Do you see that, Mr. President? It's right there (indicating).
The Witness: Well, I don't have any memory of it.
Q: All right. I'll go on and we will come to some more references. We've looked through the notes on the November 10th meeting, and John, you correct me, and you, too, Ted, but none of them mention the question of legality except that Attorney General Meese notes, I think on page 3, that "The President states that he has not violated laws or our policies."
I'm just trying to determine how this question arose, if any of this comes back to you. Neither Shultz nor Weinberger at this meeting are complaining about the law.
Mr. Barrett: This at tab 32 is Attorney General Meese's note, and this is the line that Judge Walsh was referring to.
Mr. Olson: Now this is one that I have not seen so I can't I don't think I have seen this.
Judge Walsh: Oh, you haven't seen these notes?
Mr. Olson: I haven't and it's not on this chart.
Mr. Barrett: It's tab 30.
Judge Walsh: I'm sorry. There wasn't very much that he added other than that.
Mr. Olson: Can you read his handwriting, Mr. President?
The Witness: I'm having trouble with it.
Mr. Olson: Is it transcribed?
The Witness: Is that "violence"?
Mr. Olson: I think it says "Not violated laws or our policies" and it looks like it's in quotes and it has an RR in front of it.
Judge Walsh: That's right.
The Witness: Well, I don't know.
Q: This reoccurs, this sort of statement.
A: What is it I'm supposed to do?
Q: I will just call your attention each time I see something like that to just see whether it rings a bell with you.
A: It doesn't.
Q: All right, sir. We mentioned this morning the statement that Speakes issued that no U.S. laws had been violated.
Q: Now that gets us through November 10th. The next thing is November 12th. There is some strong language by the president in his diary. "The whole inescapable bilge about hostages and Iran has gotten totally out of hand. The media looks like it's trying to create another Watergate. I laid down the law in the morning meeting. I want to go public personally and tell the people the truth. We are trying to arrange it for tomorrow."
"A meeting with George Shultz. He'll be a team player but he was never happy about our Iran policy."
"Then to the situation room where we briefed the congressional leadership. Bob Michel couldn't come so Lawton Chiles replaced him. Bob Dole, Bob Byrd and Jim Wright. We gave them the whole load on hostages and Iran and explained why we couldn't go public with some of the info. It would actually endanger some lives, including the hostages."
Mr. Olson: For your information, Judge Walsh, there are other things relating to other subjects in between the part that you read, and if you'd like to look at this, this is
Judge Walsh: Is there anything in there that distorts the
Mr. Olson: No, but there appears to be a time interval between them.
Judge Walsh: There is. Perhaps I should have indicated that. These are really two separate entries on the same day.
Mr. Olson: Yes.
The Witness: Well, again, that's a party I must not have been at. I don't recall any of this.
Q: It sounds like what you might have said as you think of it now, but you don't recall actually
Q: Do you recall a congressional briefing with
A: No, I don't. I'm assuming that I did that but I don't I can't picture it and I have no memory of it.
Q: I think you present with Vice President Bush, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, and Admiral Poindexter. Was Attorney General Meese there too?
Mr. Barrett: Casey, Attorney General Meese, Larry Speakes, Will Ball, Paul Thompson, Al Keel, Mr. Regan.
Q: Don Regan was there too.
A: Oh. Well, I don't remember any of this.
Q: All right.
A: There were so many of those meetings that take place.
Q: In that meeting when Admiral Poindexter briefed the congressional leaders, he did not tell them about any of the 1985 transactions. He told them about your finding in January, 1986 and he essentially said that there were no transfers of materiel until after that.
I just ask you whether by any chance you remember that or whether that struck you that it was discordant with your memory.
A: I have no memory of that.
Q: Okay. Again in this meeting you state that we had violated no law and so I have the same question again. Do you remember where that came from?
Q: On the next day, which is November 13th, you have a diary entry and it says "The first order of business. President to go on TV that evening," and then at eight o'clock you address the nation from the Oval Office.
Mr. Olson: There is a little bit more to that entry in the diary.
Judge Walsh: Go ahead. Could you add that?
Mr. Olson: This is from the A.B. Culvahouse excerpt.
Q: Okay. This is on Thursday, November 13th, and I read the first part. I will add the second entry. "Then came eight p.m. and I did a twelve minute TV speech on the Iran incident and gave the facts to refute the fire storm the press is raising based entirely on unsubstantiated rumors and outright inventions. Several thousand phone calls came in and about two thirds were favorable."
A: Well, is that from the diary?
Q: Apparently that was a note you did have.
Mr. Olson: Yes, Mr. President. This is just a slightly more detailed
The Witness: I don't remember it.
Q: All right. I'm taking you all the way through this unpleasant two weeks, Mr. President. We have the speech now which is have you got that, John?
Mr. Barrett: It's tab 34. These are your remarks that evening.
Mr. Olson: Is there any particular portion?
Judge Walsh: I just think that it is a continued, consistent statement of the President's position. the things that I noted were "The charge that the United States shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payments was utterly false" and also the statement that "The United States secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists is utterly false." I think that would be consistent with the President's position.
Mr. Olson: He has not, of course, re-read this speech and it's about three pages of small type, but if you wish, he will; whatever you'd like.
Judge Walsh: The only reason for doing it, if you would like to take the time, is to see if it brings back the two weeks to you at all. Maybe we could take five or ten minutes to do that.
Mr. Olson: Whatever you'd like.
Judge Walsh: This is his most complete statement. The only thing I'm going to ask him about specifically is the statement that we were in full compliance with the federal law and I would welcome any recollection that this refreshes.
The Witness: (Perusing document.) Well, I can't in my mind picture where I made such a speech but I do believe that it expresses my feelings about the whole matter.
I have to say that this is me speaking what I'm feeling about the whole thing here but I don't have any memory of, they say in the Oval Office there and I don't have any memory of making this speech. But it expresses how I feel about the whole thing.
Q: There is a mention in there of full compliance with federal law and I'm still trying to figure out who it is that is so concerned about that and whether would Attorney General Meese be would this be the sort of thin you would be drawing him in for policy advice as well as for legal advice?
A: You know, I can't give you an answer.
Q: Because of his loyalty to you?
A: I can't give you the answer on that. I don't know whether he was around then or not. I just don't know.
Q: You wouldn't work with one of his assistants ordinarily, would you? Mr. Cooper or somebody like that?
Q: It usually would be Mr. Meese?
A: It would be if Ed was there. If he wasn't, well but I don't remember the actual thing of doing the speech.
Q: Okay. There with be a press statement in a few minutes and then that essentially says the same thing. In the November 12th diary entry
A: I hate to sound so ignorant but it's just that the life was so damn busy with so many things going that
Q: Mr. President, those of us who are a lot less busy have the same trouble. I hope you feel comfortable with that. I want you to be fully relaxed here as though you were talking to Ted instead of to me.
Mr. Olson: You're nicer than I am.
Judge Walsh: Well, I don't have the long relationship. I'm just trying to start one.
Q: "The whole inescapable bilge about hostages," you say, and then you say "I laid down the law" and this speech is what you felt you should give and then you make the speech.
Then Prime Minister Thatcher comes to visit you, as though you didn't have enough to do. Your speech is on Thursday, the 13th, and then you go to Camp David on November the 14th and Prime Minister Thatcher comes to Camp David on Saturday, November 15th.
A: Well, I must tell you that I have a great respect and feeling for her about this. We had quite a after I got out of the governorship I was hired to make a speech in London and a very prominent businessman here and a long time friend happened to be there when I got there.
She had just become the chairman of the Conservative party and he had met her and he said he asked me if he could arrange a meeting between us, would I like to have a meeting. He said, "I think you two really have the same ideas and views on government." So I said, "Well, yes, certainly."
He arranged the meeting and we had a meeting that lasted an hour and a half in her office. That night after that meeting, I was at a cocktail party put on by the people who had hired me to come up and make a speech and a Lord somebody or other came up to me at the party in Hollywood we would have called him Colonel Blimp and he came up and he said, "Well," he said, "What did you think of our Miss Thatcher?"
I in no uncertain terms told him the great respect that I had developed in my meeting with her, and I would it up by saying because normally that party gets if that organization that she was chairman of gets big enough, it then becomes the Parliament and she becomes the prime minister.
I concluded my remarks to him with my respect for her and what I felt about what I had learned, and I said, "I think she would make a magnificent prime minister."
He said, "Oh, my dear fellow, a woman prime minister?"
I said, "Well, you had a queen named Victoria once who did rather well." He said, "By Jove, I'd forgotten all about that."
May I take a moment of your time and tell you a little thing about Margaret Thatcher? You know, there was a economic summit with seven of the leading countries in the world that met each year in one or other of the countries. We made a circuit as the years went on around the ring, and then, whichever country we were in, the head person in that country would chair the meetings.
So it was the turn came that it was England's turn for the meeting and that meant that Margaret Thatcher would preside.
Now we always, it was tradition, the night before the meetings the seven of us had dinner together. I was all set when we well, not at that dinner, but when it was in America, I had chosen Williamsburg, that old colonial thing, and then I had chosen also that we would have that evening dinner in what had been the dining room of the British governor in that era, his home. I was all prepared when we sat down to dinner, I was going to say to her that if she had been a little more clever I mean if some of her predecessors had been a little more clever, she would be, you know,
Q: Be the host?
A: But I never got my first words out. As we sat down to dinner, she was beside me and I just started with it and she said, "I know." She said, "I would have been the hostess at this dinner."
But this night when the thing was in England, she was chairman of the meetings. Pierre Trudeau was at that time the prime minister of Canada and all of a sudden he lit into her. I couldn't believe it about how undemocratic she was in the conduct of these meetings and so forth and what she was doing and all, and she just stood there taking it.
Finally, when he sat back, she just went on with the meeting.
Well, I couldn't when the meeting was over, I caught up with her out in the hall and I said, "Margaret, he was really out of line. He had no business talking to you like that."
She said, "Oh, women know when men are being childish."
I'm a great admirer. She is really and she did so much for that country of hers.
I hope I didn't take up your time with that.
Q: Oh, no. This is far more interesting than the subject matter of the testimony, but we have to keep coming back to it.
She did make a very helpful statement, as I remember, when she was here at Camp David right in the middle of all of this unpleasantness.
A: Oh, yes. She's a remarkable woman.
Q: That was on Saturday which would be the 15th. Then on the 19th we just have two very brief items on November 17th and November 18th about the press continuing to harp on the initiative.
Q: It's just more of the same, I think. Then on November 19th, which is a Wednesday, you have a diary entry first of "Staff time at NSC briefing taken up with our Dreyfuss case coming press conference. After lunch a meeting with George Shultz. I think we are going to have some top level meetings with me, the two Georges, Cap, Bill Casey and John Poindexter. I am suspicious that some of George's people have been making him feel that he is being left out of the inner circle."
I don't know whether that refreshes your recollection that Secretary Shultz was unhappy about the initiative and I think he felt that Admiral Poindexter hadn't been candid with him.
A: There was some friction between some of those people there at the time and George was a part of it, but I couldn't specify as to that. I was just aware that there was some and Cap sometimes also, he and George kind of came nose to nose.
Q: And there was a problem of your national security adviser trying to reconcile their positions, I suppose.
A: Well, I just knew that general thing there that there was this kind of feeling between some of the people there and just tried to gloss it over and to
Q: To keep the administration going?
A: Right. That's the most that I can say.
Q: Would it be fair to say, Mr. President, that although you have very little recollection of these individual incidents, that they are all consistent with your general recollection of the way you handled the problems in November, 1986?
A: Well, I knew as I say, I knew that there were some differences between some of them there but I can't my memory doesn't say anything about a great separation or inability to act. After all, I was still the boss.
Q: That became clear.
A: That next line there, "Don Regan told me that George Shultz was about to lay down an ultimatum that either I fire John Poindexter or George quits"
Q: That's on the next day.
A: And nothing ever happened like that. He didn't lay down such an ultimatum at any time.
Q: Had he given you a letter of resignation which you had not accepted?
Mr. Olson: He being?
Judge Walsh: Shultz.
The Witness: You're telling me something I'm not aware of.
Q: I think that this is an outsider's reading of what happened, but in the summer he had given you a letter of resignation and you never acted on it. I think at one of these meetings that he reminded you that you had a paper of his but didn't actually spell out the word resignation because Keel was in the room too and he didn't want to say it in front of somebody else.
A: My goodness, I would have to look have I got a paper of that kind somewhere? It could be that maybe there is such a paper around because up at the Library there are 57 million pieces of paper having to do with my administration.
Q: Well, we won't go look for it today.
Going back to November the 19th, that's on Wednesday, you had a press conference that night and we have that here
Mr. Barrett: It's tab 39.
Q: I keep drawing you through things which are repetitive of what you have already seen, but I keep doing it thinking that you may remember them.
Mr. Olson: Now this is quite lengthy. Do you want him to
Judge Walsh: I think his own statement is not very long. It's just when it gets into all the questioning that it gets long.
Mr. Olson: Would you like him to read just the statement?
Judge Walsh: Yes, just the statement.
Mr. Olson: Mr. President, I think he would like you to read just from here to the first question. Is that correct, Judge?
Judge Walsh: Yes.
The Witness: All right.
Yes, I guess I have to admit to this.
Q: It is a statement acknowledging that the initiative was controversial but you believe it is correct.
Q: At this time you add, "To eliminate the widespread mistaken perception that we have been exchanging arms for hostages, I have directed that no further sales of arms of any kind be sent to Iran."
Do you remember making that statement?
A: No, I don't remember but I accept, seeing this, that I evidently did.
Q: And then there is one problem that came up. If you look at page 1570 over in the right-hand corner, Charles Bierbower of CNN asked you about third countries and you answer that without acknowledging Israel.
A: This is what?
Q: Do you see the Charles Bierbower question?
Mr. Olson: This is the question (indicating) and then the answer begins here (indicating).
Q: Bierbower was a reporter. Do you remember saying that there were no third countries and then subsequently the press office issued a statement that there was one third country?
A: But I have to tell you that, yes, I'll accept this, that I said this, but I have to tell you that I have no memory now of saying it.
Q: I wondered if there was any reason for not revealing Israel and whether it was a matter of protecting our relationship with Israel or something like that.
A: I don't
Mr. Olson: You don't recall?
Q: You don't recall at all?
Q: All right. We come now to Thursday, November 20th. That was the one that you were reading earlier about the ultimatum.
Mr. Olson: This is your diary here. He's moving to the next day.
Q: You mentioned this a little bit earlier. It has that Don Regan told you that George Shultz was about to lay down an ultimatum that "either I fire John Poindexter or George Shultz quits" and you say, "I don't like ultimatums."
Then that evening you had a meeting with Secretary Shultz at five o'clock in the family quarters. He was concerned that you had made mistakes in your statement to the press about the amount of the weapons and that you had been too strong in saying that it wasn't trading arms for hostages and so forth.
I don't know whether you remember that meeting with him at all.
A: I don't.
Q: At that meeting I think Don Regan was present and they say that Shultz raised the conversation at Geneva that McFarlane had with him telling him about the expected release of the hostages a day or two later and the shipment of HAWKs in November of 1985.
He says that you said, "Oh, I knew about that. That wasn't trading arms for hostages."
Now I don't know whether you have any recollection of that.
A: I don't, not at all.
Do you have any recollection of it?
A: I don't recall it.
Q: All right.
A: I know I sound awful with this thing but just living in the White House there, there was just every minute there was something going on.
Q: Here's an unhappy secretary of state and a relatively unhappy chief of staff and you've got a lot of things on your mind besides the words you're saying at the moment.
Q: Now all of your friends write books now and in Don Regan's book on page 37, he says that on that day, after the meeting with Shultz on Thursday, November 20th, he suggested to you that you had better get Attorney General Meese into the problem and have him sort out all the facts for you.
There was a conflict between Secretary Shultz, Casey, North and Poindexter as to what happened with respect to the November, 1985 HAWK shipment. Do you remember after this meeting getting Meese to come in and try to pull the facts together for you at Regan's suggestion?
A: Well, I don't remember but it sounds like something that I would do.
Q: If anyone was going to do it, it would be Meese.
A: Yes; oh, dear.
Q: There were two reasons. One, that he was the Attorney General and had the capability, and second, that he was a person who had been with you for a long time and understood the way you thought and was loyal to you.
A: Yes. There are so many meetings and face to faces with all of those people there, but there is no way to separate out and say what was the subject of those. It was almost every day that you had face to face conversations with them.
Q: I keep asking this but is there any glimmer of memory you have as to when Attorney General Meese came into this to help you with this problem, whether he was in it earlier, right after Election Day, or whether it happened after the discussion with Secretary Shultz? Is there anything you remember on that, however imperfectly?
A: Well, now, but he was just supposed to be a kind of a counsel
Q: Who could take difficult problems
A: in the administration and so forth. But it seems like I could in my mind draw a picture of sitting or standing or walking on any number of occasions, but I have no memory of what the hell we were talking about in any of them.
Q: Here is another entry. On November 21st, which is a Friday, just before you go to Camp David there is a diary entry that you met with Senators Dole and Byrd on another matter "and then we had an NSC briefing. It seems there is a thing having to do with Israel and some HAWK missiles in the Iran mix that has to be straightened out. Ed Meese assured us again that I'm in the clear legally on what we were doing. Some of the Congress are" and I think it's probably "unhappy"
Mr. Olson: I think the word is "sniping."
Q: "are sniping about the delay in telling them what was going on." That makes better sense.
Mr. Olson: I think that's the word.
The Witness: I have no memory of that either.
Mr. Olson: Before you go to the 24th,
Judge Walsh: That would be a good time. That will be the last of the meetings.
Mr. Olson: Is this a good time to break then?
Judge Walsh: This is a good time.
Mr. Olson: Okay. We're going to take a short break.
(Whereupon, a brief recess was taken and the interview continued).
Q: Okay, Mr. President. We're in the home stretch. The last thing I will probably the last major thing I'll ask you about is the November 24th meeting. I will start out with the meeting first because I think your notes were written after the meeting and it will be easier for you if we but you can take a look at the notes. That may help you orient yourself.
First there was a meeting and then you wrote your diary entry after that because the big event of the day came after the meeting when you learned about "the smoking gun."
On November 24th there is a meeting at two p.m. I think the easiest thing to is to use the Regan notes.
Mr. Barrett: These are at tab 51 in the binder. This is a typewritten excerpt from Mr. Regan's notes.
Q: This was a senior advisers meeting, Mr. President. You were there with Vice President Bush, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, Attorney General Meese, Director Casey, Admiral Poindexter, and Don Regan.
There was a the proposal that Admiral Poindexter was about to put was to put an emissary to the Middle Eastern states to explain the initiative to them. That's what he was proposing, and that provoked a discussion in which remarks were made by you and by some of the Cabinet officers. I am covering them again just to give you everything we have on these two weeks.
"In the meeting the President said he felt he did the right thing in trying to establish contact
Mr. Olson: Are you referring to Mr. Regan's notes?
Judge Walsh: To Don Regan's notes.
Miss Spaulding: That excerpt may be narrower than what the Judge is referring to.
Mr. Barrett: Let me try and help you along with the original.
Judge Walsh: They're editing my presentation.
Mr. Barrett: This is Donald Regan.
The Witness: Oh, Don Regan? I didn't see that. My writing is worse than theirs, but this is still pretty lousy.
Judge Walsh: They were writing fast.
Mr. Olson: Did you want the President to be reading the handwritten
Judge Walsh: Whatever makes it easier for him. If he can read it, that's fine. Have in mind that this is the last long meeting we're going into and them I'm going to pick up his various statements reaffirming his position. Then there will be a little discussion of the law and that's all I'm going to go into.
I can take it up piece by piece or which ever way you want.
The Witness: Now where are we?
Q: We're back on November 24th now. I'm going to ask you if you remember making certain remarks which Mr. Regan has written down and attributed to you. If you do, fine.
A: Are they here or am I just going to hear them or what?
Q: I'll read them if you want.
Mr. Olson: Why don't you let Judge Walsh read to you what he is taking from someone else's notes and then you listen and
Judge Walsh: Rather than try to read it yourself.
The Witness: Okay.
Q: All right. Don Regan is saying that first Admiral Poindexter opens up the session and says "There are things to be decided. One, whether we send an emissary to the Mideast; two, whether to continue the channel with Iran notwithstanding our new no-arms-for-Iran policy; and three, how to get the State Department into the act." That's the proposal.
Then you say, according to Don Regan, "The President felt he did the right thing in trying to establish contact. Doesn't want to miss opportunity, especially if Soviets were to take over. The cover is blown. He doesn't think admitting a mistake will help." This is what he says you say.
"The President regards our arms sales as a token compared to those of other allied countries."
My question would be does this bring back anything to mind that you are in there arguing with your department heads?
A: No. I can't recall it, I can't picture it in my mind.
Q: All right. Does it sound pretty good?
Q: It is something that would be consistent with your position.
Q: Then Don Regan asked about the HAWK shipments in November, 1985. "Meese answered. Shultz was told in Geneva by McFarlane. The President was only told that the hostages may be out shortly." This refers to the conversations in Geneva.
"McFarlane told Shultz that the hostages were to come out first and then the arms were to be shipped. This did not take place. Meese said it may be a violation of law if arms were shipped without a finding but the President did not know."
Now does that bring back to mind at all a concern that Attorney General Meese had or that any of the lawyers had that if you knew about the HAWK shipments it was a violation of the law?
A: I have no idea about that at all. I can't I don't recall this, that exchange, or anything at all.
Q: And you don't recall any earlier discussions about this subject as a legal question?
Q: All right. A little bit later, "President Reagan said he did not want to ransom hostages but to get channels open. Still wants contact with Iran in case of government change. Will not yield to press."
Does that sound familiar?
A: It does sound familiar but I
Q: "Won't admit any mistake."
A: It sure sounds like something I might have said.
Q: "Won't admit any mistake. He isn't that good an actor to say he made a mistake when he doesn't believe in the part."
A: I don't recall any of this but I guess I have to admit to it.
Q: "President said no deal in his mind for arms for hostages. Arms were a good faith deposit of ours."
That's more of the same position.
"The President ends meeting by saying I'll tell everybody to shut up and stay off the air on this matter. He is fed up with unnamed sources."
A: I don't remember saying it but I can well believe I said it.
Q: All right. The only reason I keep harping on this is that in December, 1985 you were so outspoken that the Arms Export Control Act wasn't going to stand in your way. In fact, you may have felt it was unconstitutional, as you said earlier, that it was a congressional restraint on presidential power.
Then in these later meetings someone is worrying about it and these concerns are being expressed. I just wondered if you could help us in any way in figuring out how that transition occurred.
A: I just can't recall.
Q: All right, sir. Let's see what else we've got.
Well, I'll show you the diary entry now on November 24th. This diary entry was written after the meeting. After the meeting there was a private meeting between Attorney General Meese, Don Regan, and you in which they told you about North's the diversion of funds from the proceeds of the arms sales to support the Contras, so that's the smoking gun I think you're talking about.
Your diary states "Big thing of day was a two hour meeting in the situation room on the Iran affair. George S. is still stubborn that we shouldn't have sold the arms to Iran. I gave him an argument. All in all we got everything on the table."
"After meeting Ed Meese and Don Regan told me of smoking gun. One of the arms shipments the Iranians paid Israel a higher purchase price than we were getting. The Israelis put difference in secret bank account. Then our Colonel North, NSC, gave the money to the Contras. This was a violation of the law against us giving the Contras money without an authorization by Congress. North didn't tell me about this. Worst of all, Poindexter found out about it and didn't tell me. This may call for resignations."
Do you remember that meeting and that meeting and that information coming to you?
A: I don't, but let me there are some things there that read it again. There is something up there that
Q: Sure. We'll read it over slowly.
A: I don't, but let me there are some things there that read it again. There is something up there that
Q: Sure. We'll read it over slowly. "Big thing of day was a two hour meeting"
A: Oh, now wait a minute. I know what it is. We were trying to help in that Contra thing and the Congress interfered and they did a thing in which that's what made it
A: Illegal for taking this money when the money came in and taking the surplus amount and giving it to the Contras there. I don't remember the exact details or anything about it, but I do remember that something like that was done.
Again it was the damn legislature that had we were trying to be of help to some pretty honest people in Central American there and I don't recall anything about who it was that did it or but the Congress raised hell about it, that we had violated their they had put a halt on trying to help those people.
Q: Do you remember the expression "Boland Amendment"? The Boland Amendment was the name of the law which forbade the use of intelligence agency funds to support the Contras. Is that the law you were referring to? Does that sound like it?
Q: Does that sound like the law that you were referring to?
A: Well, I can't recall the details of it at all but I know that we had people that were trying to help those people in Central America there and somebody evidently thought that they had the right to do this thing but the Congress had slammed the door earlier on it.
A: But I don't remember the details at all. I'm still a little mad right now at the
Q: At the restraints?
Q: I may ask you a little bit about that later but coming back to this afternoon of the 24th, do you remember that Admiral Poindexter was in jeopardy because these funds had been misapplied and he found out about it and didn't tell you?
A: Those are details that I don't I'm not aware of. I can't remember anything about that.
Q: Do you remember the concern about Admiral Poindexter perhaps having to resign?
A: No, I don't remember that.
Q: This was essentially something that Attorney General Meese was handling for you at that point. Were you generally following his advice?
Q: Then if you notice your note on the next one, on November 25th, there is a short note, "John resigned because he had gotten wind of this game but didn't look into it or tell me."
A: Now John? Who is that?
Q: That's Admiral Poindexter, John Poindexter.
A: Oh. Well, there again that's a thing that I have no memory of.
Judge Walsh: I wonder if the press conference on that day would help. That would be the 25th.
Miss Spaulding: That's at tab 56.
Q: Mr. President, I think this will be the last long document I'll ask you to look at. I think this may bring it back to your mind.
A: This is a statement by me?
Q: This is a statement by you followed by a press conference by Attorney General Meese.
Mr. Olson: What portion of it would you like him to read?
Judge Walsh: I think if he read his statement is quite short.
Mr. Olson: At this point all Judge Walsh wants you to do is just read this first page.
The Witness: Okay.
Q: Does that bring back to your mind at all that Admiral Poindexter had to leave?
A: No. As I say, I can't remember doing this or don't have any memory about that, but I have to say that, yes, I must have written this. It sounds like how I felt in trying to get back onto a sound footing.
Q: After the smoking gun? After the diversion?
Q: I think that's about all I have. I guess the next item will be one you'll like. On Wednesday, November 26th, you go to California for Thanksgiving. We'll get you back into the happier area.
Mr. Olson: Now we're going to go this is the calendar. Let's take a look at that.
Judge Walsh: I wonder it it's in his diary.
Mr. Olson: "President to California." Do you see that?
The Witness: Then we had Thanksgiving at the ranch.
Q: That's a nice way to end this part of the discussion.
A: That's just fine.
Q: I have a few extraneous things. Would you like do you want to take a break? I can go right to them, whichever you want.
Mr. Olson: How many minutes do you think you'll be? If you think it will be short, I think the President probably would just as soon go ahead.
Judge Walsh: All right.
Mr. Olson: Then I promised him that he can go home.
Judge Walsh: Except for the fact that I lost John Barrett's notes, that may delay that.
Here it is; I've got it.
Q: This is about a different subject. I'm going back now to the Contra problem. I won't be talking about Iran anymore.
As you said earlier, in the fall of 1984 Congress really shut down on the support that we were giving the Contras in Nicaragua, the freedom fighters. After that, we tried to raise funds to supplement, to help them with their activities, some of it from private sources and some of it from foreign countries who were friendly to us.
One of those was the Saudis, King Fahd, and they did it on two occasions. First McFarlane talked with Prince Bandar and they supplied a million dollars a month for one year to the Contras, and then when King Fahd visited you, just as he was leaving he said he was going to double that support and you just thanked him for it.
A: I don't have any memory of that.
Q: You don't remember that?
Judge Walsh: I think it's in is it in the diary, John?
Mr. Barrett: It's the very first entry of these excerpts, I believe.
Q: February 12th, 1985.
Mr. Olson: I think he's got an incomplete sentence. It says "He is going to" and I don't know what the antecedent is.
Judge Walsh: This is a summary. Those are notes that we made.
Mr. Olson: Right. Should I try to find it?
Judge Walsh: This will be the last one, I think.
The Witness: I do remember that there was some fussing around on these things here with Congress wanting to stop any support of these things in these other countries like this, but we felt that actually this was going counter to the democracy that was trying to be established there.
Mr. Olson: I don't have that one because that was one that, for whatever reason, it was decided to be discussed orally, probably because it had to do with a foreign country and diplomatic something or other.
Judge Walsh: I see.
Mr. Olson: The note that I have is what was communicated to your staff at the time was to be briefed on it orally so I don't have that excerpt.
Mr. Barrett: I think that might explain why our note is also very cryptic.
Mr. Olson: Okay.
Q: Excuse me, Mr. President. You were talking about I think you have the matter generally in mind about the congressional resistance to supporting democratic movements or movements toward democracy in foreign countries.
A: Yes. I can't give details but I have just kind of a memory here that there was a thing and the Congress was resisting this idea of us trying to help the people in some of these other countries who wanted to get rid of autocracy and become a democracy.
Q: The Senate was usually supportive of your effort but the House was very narrowly was closely divided and sometimes you would win and sometimes you would lose.
Q: On one of those occasions they passed when the opponents won they passed this restriction on the use of intelligence agency funds and put it in the Appropriation Act that you had to sign or shut down the intelligence agency.
I don't know whether you remember that.
A: No, I don't.
Q: That was why King Fahd tried to help out by supplying his own personal funds to support the Contras, the freedom fighters, but apparently don't have a very sharp recollection of that.
A: No. It just seems to me that someplace there is a memory that not whether we did anything or not, but that we thought and hoped that maybe other countries not beholden to our Congress could be persuaded to help these things in Central America and so forth with funding.
Q: That's right and some of that did happen. Do you recall any discussion of these efforts during 1985? This shutdown came at the end of '84, in fiscal year '85, and '85 and '86, those two years, there were no United States funds available for the Contras.
During that period we had to scrounge to try to help them.
A: I'm sure I have a faint memory of this kind of thing and getting somebody else where it wouldn't be illegal for them to do it, to help, but I can't remember any details.
Q: And you certainly wouldn't remember any discussions of it or who would know about it or that sort of thing?
Judge Walsh: John, if you want to do you mind if Mr. Barrett asks you a few questions?
The Witness: No.
Q: Mr. President, let me read do you remember when the Poindexter trial came out here to California and you testified and it was videotaped to play back in Washington in 1990 I guess that was?
A: Good Lord, I don't have any memory of that.
Judge Walsh: You gave a deposition.
Q: This was your testimony. Let me just read a little bit to see if this helps.
The question was "Do you recall having a meeting with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia?" and the answer is "I do."
"Could you please tell the jury about that meeting that you had with King Fahd?
"Yes. We had a meeting, a good meeting, and we have always been interested in Saudi Arabia and the part it could play in bringing peace to the Middle East and nothing was said about the Contras or Contra aid until he stood up to leave."
"As he was leaving the Oval Office and I was escorting him to the door, he told me of the contribution that he had been making to the Contras. There had been no discussion of that in our meeting until that. He told me that and his last words were was that he was going to double it."
Question: "Did he tell you what the amount was that he was going to double?"
"And what was that amount?"
"A million dollars."
"So he was going to double it to two million?"
"Do you recall what your response to him was when he told you that?"
"Yes. I said I think that's fine."
A: I had totally forgotten all about that. Oh, my gosh.
Q: Does this bring it back in any way, the meeting with King Fahd? Does this refresh your recollection on that at all?
A: No, but I have to accept that we did this and that we had that conversation there but I had forgotten all about it.
A: I can't even remember that I was testifying.
Judge Walsh: That was about two, two and a half years ago.
The Witness: For heaven's sakes.
Judge Walsh: February, 1990.
The Witness: Good Lord.
Q: Without reference to this specific meeting with King Fahd, do you remember Saudi Arabia as one of the helpful countries?
A: No, I honestly don't.
Q: All right, Mr. President. Is there anything that you want to say yourself? This is a funny question to ask but because of the importance of your office, if there is anything that you would like to add in this deposition or anything that you would like to bring out, we'd be glad to have it.
A: No, I can't think of anything except that I just don't have a clear memory going back there.
Q: Well, thank you for trying to help us. We understand the position you took and how you felt about it.
A: Oh, dear.
Mr. Olson: Well, thank you very much. Let me escort the President to his office and let him go because there was just one little thing I wanted to take care of with him that is separate and apart from this, and then I'd like to come back in.
Judge Walsh: Sure. We'll wait for you.
(Whereupon, the interview was concluded at 3:25 o'clock, p.m.)
I, Karen S. Scheinberg, Court Reporter, do hereby certify that the foregoing proceedings were taken by me by Stenomask and thereafter reduced to typewriting by me or under my direction; that the transcript is a true record of the testimony given by said witness; that I am neither counsel for, related to, nor employed by any of the parties to the action in which this testimony was taken; and further, that I am not a relative or employee of any attorney or counsel employed by the parties thereto; nor financially or otherwise interested in the outcome of the action.
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