Eight Republican members of the congressional Iran-contra committees denounced the majority report yesterday in an outspoken dissent that rejected the idea that the Reagan administration had "subverted the law, undermined the Constitution or threatened democracy."

"President Reagan and his staff made mistakes in the Iran-contra affair," the GOP minority said. "The bottom line, however, is that the mistakes . . . were just that, mistakes in judgment, and nothing more. There was no constitutional crisis, no systematic disrespect for the 'rule of law,' no grand conspiracy, and no administration-wide dishonesty or cover-up."

The 155-page minority report assailed the majority's findings as "hysterical" and challenged every one of the majority's legal interpretations as "open to serious question."

Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), one of the eight Republicans who filed the dissenting report, added at a news conference yesterday that he thought it was "utter nonsense" to say that Reagan acted unconstitutionally when all he was doing was trying "to fight for democracy . . . . "

The congressional inquiry into the Iran-contra affair, Hyde charged, "started out as a witch hunt. It proceeded as a witch hunt and indeed the final report {of the majority} indicates that it was a witch hunt."

Senate committee Vice Chairman Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), one of three Republicans who signed the majority report, denounced the minority version as "pathetic" and said it reminded him of the late Adlai Stevenson's remark that "this particular report is one in which the editors separated the wheat from the chaff and, unfortunately, it printed the chaff."

The minority report was signed by Reps. Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.), William S. Broomfield (R-Mich.), Jim Courter (R-N.J.), Bill McCollum Jr. (R-Fla.), Michael DeWine (R-Ohio), Hyde, and Sens. James A. McClure (R-Idaho) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

The Republicans took the position that no crimes worth prosecuting had been committed. Hatch acknowledged at a news conference that "there were one or two instances in which Ollie North said he did lie to Congress. That is a crime." But McCollum evidently spoke for the group when he said he thought independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh should close his criminal investigation and go home to Oklahoma.

"I just think that Mr. Walsh ought to pack his bags, close his files . . . and just put all this to rest," McCollum said.

Accusing the majority of using evidence selectively to support politically biased interpretations, the minority particularly objected to the way the majority report dealt with Reagan's lack of knowledge about the diversion of arms sales proceeds to aid the Nicaraguan rebels. The Republicans suggested that the majority was trying to imply that Reagan may have known about the diversion when "the overwhelming evidence" is that the buck stopped with former national security adviser John M. Poindexter.

"Any attempt to suggest otherwise can only be seen as an effort to sow meritless doubts in the hope of reaping a partisan political advantage," the minority said.

But Rudman took exception to the minority report's interpretation of what the majority report said. The majority report, he said, noted that what Reagan knew about the diversion was not conclusive as to whether he should be held responsible.

The minority said it was convinced that "no one in the government was acting out of corrupt motives." It agreed that the legal question about who owned the proceeds from the arms sales -- the U.S. government or the "enterprise" headed by former Air Force major general Richard V. Secord and arms dealer Albert Hakim -- was a close one.

"If {the funds} did belong to the United States, there would be legal questions . . . about using U.S.-owned funds for purposes not specifically approved by law," the GOP report said. "The answer does not seem to us to be so obvious, however, as to warrant treating the matter as if it were criminal."

The Republicans said the majority report read as if it were a weapon in the "ongoing state of political guerrilla warfare over foreign policy" between Congress and the executive branch. The minority also took the position that the 1984 Boland Amendment was unconstitutional, at least to the extent that it purported to preclude the president or "his agents" from trying to persuade U.S. citizens or third countries to contribute funds to the contra cause.

Reagan, the GOP report said, clearly knew third-country funds had been given to the Nicaraguan resistance in 1984-85 and he did not tell the National Security Council staff "not to encourage foreign political or financial support." According to Poindexter, Reagan thought such contributions should be encouraged.

"But whatever the president's precise knowledge or direction of the NSC staff's role in encouraging contributions {was}," the minority said, "we are firmly convinced that the Constitution protects such diplomacy by the president or by any of his designated agents -- whether on the NSC staff, State Department or anywhere else."

In similar fashion, the minority said it saw nothing wrong with the assistance North provided to the private fund-raising effort headed by Carl R. (Spitz) Channell and his partner Richard R. Miller or with the role the president played in thanking contributors and holding "photo opportunities" with them.

Channell and Miller pleaded guilty last spring to conspiring to defraud the government by soliciting contributions for military aid to the contras under the cover of a tax-exempt charitable foundation. They said they conspired with North "and others known and unknown" in the scheme to use tax-deductible donations for weapons.

The GOP minority, however, contended that "there is no evidence that North knew about the tax problem, much less conspired with Channell and Miller." As for the president, the minority said, he had simply thanked contributors "for their long-term support of his policies" and not for a single donation to Channell.

In conceding that mistakes were made, the minority agreed that North and Poindexter had falsified the documentary record last November "in a way that we find deplorable." The GOP lawmakers said they also found fault with:The president's decision to sign the Boland Amendment of 1984 instead of vetoing it. Reagan's "less-than-robust defense of his office's constitutional powers, a mistake he repeated when he acceded too readily and too completely to waive executive privilege for our committees' investigation." The decision to pursue a covert policy with Iran that was at odds with the administration's public expressions, without any warnings to Congress or allies. The decision to withhold information from Congress for unusually sensitive covert operations "for a length of time that stretches credulity." "Poindexter's decision to authorize the diversion on his own; and, finally, Poindexter and North's apparent belief that covering up was in the president's political interest."

In giving the administration "a clean bill of health," the eight Republicans said, "We do not intend to be endorsing the wisdom of everything it was doing . . . . We think it was a fundamental mistake for the NSC staff to have been secretive and deceptive about its actions . . . . {But} we do believe firmly that the NSC staff's deceits were not meant to hide illegalities."

The Republican minority concluded their report with recommendations to impose stiffer penalities for congressional leaks of classified information, a proposition that Rudman found ironic because the minority report was "leaked to the press on Monday while it still bore a classification."