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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 11 Dec 2018 08:05
When the story breaks that senior US government officials secretly traded arms for hostages, Congress and the American people demand answers. Chief of Staff Don Regan and Attorney General Ed Meese begin building a wall around the President.
Links to books:
Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up - Lawrence E. Walsh
Under Fire: An American Story - Oliver L. North
Special Trust - Robert C. McFarlane
Iran-Contra: Reagan's Scandal and the Unchecked Abuse of Presidential Power - Malcolm Byrne
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It's early November 1986. A magazine reporter sits in his office in Washington, DC. He's supposed to be grinding out a deadline, but he's having a hard time concentrating. The DC rumor mill is firing on all cylinders, and the office is a buzz. A few days ago, Al Sharah, a Lebanese periodical, broke the political story of the decade. Senior US government officials, including former National Security Advisor Robert Budmick Farlin and Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, made a secret trip to Iran to trade arms for hostages. The story was confirmed by the speaker of the Iranian Parliament. So far though, it's been radio silence at the White House. They have neither confirmed nor denied the story. Former reporters all across Washington, it's a frantic race for the truth. But this reporter is about to snatch a big scoop. Yeah, hello? You got a minute. Immediately, the reporter knows who's on the other end of the line. He'd recognize that voice anywhere, and he knows this particular man doesn't call journalists unless he has something to say. Are you alone? Hang on a sec. He quickly closes the door to his office. Are we on record? No. I'll talk on background. All right. Who do I say you are? An anonymous source close to the White House. An anonymous it is. Where you got it? This Iran ordeal, there's more to the story. I'm listening. First of all, this was not the president's doing. The reporter nearly spits out his coffee. A delegation of top White House officials go on a secret mission to Iran, and the president doesn't even know about it? Come on. Look, the president wants the hostages back, period. But that's not the issue. The issue is who's behind the operation. Everyone is looking at the Oval Office for answers, but they're looking in the wrong place. All right, where should they be looking? The National Security Council. But the NSC answers to the president. Not this time, at least not directly. So who's pulling the strings? But MacFarlane. The reporter grabs a pen and paper and starts furious with the scribbling notes. Is that by Bud resigned? The Reagan force him out? Here is all I'm willing to say. Iran is a rogue NSC operation, but was way off the reservation on this. Reagan didn't know about it because Bud never told him to give you enough to go on. Yeah. I'll call if I need anything else. Don't. This conversation never happened. On November 6, 1987, Reagan tells reporters that the Al Shiraah story has no foundation. Beyond that, his cabinet is divided on how to respond. Some favor Reagan telling the American people the truth. Others favor Reagan saying something, but not everything. While still others, favor silence, believing the best comment is no comment at all. But Don Reagan doesn't wait for a consensus. Don takes matters into his own hands. He talks to multiple reporters. He fingers Bud as the central culprit, the mastermind behind the Iran operation. One tries to plant a story, but it never gets published. That's because reporters start calling the White House, asking officials to comment on Bud's role in the scandal, and a coworker tips Bud off. Bud is furious. This isn't the first time Don Reagan has tried to besmirch his character, and it certainly isn't the first time Bud has faced a tough fight. Bud is a soldier, a former Marine. He responds to Don's treachery by doing what a soldier does best. He fights back. American scandal is sponsored by the new audiobook, Killing the Legends, the 12th audiobook in the multi million selling killing series from Bill O. Riley and Martin Dewgardt. Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Muhammad Ali, three icons known everywhere in every nation across every culture. They had everything. Fame, money, the admiration of millions, but their lives spun out of control at the hands of those they most trusted. 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Chief of Staff Don Reagan, and someone who has so far only been tangentially involved, but will soon play a large role in the attempt to cover up Iran Contra. Attorney General Ed Mice. This is Episode 3. Don and Ed. It's November 8, 1986. National Security Advisor John Poindexter and Chief of Staff Don Reagan meet for breakfast in Washington, DC. This is not a social outing. It's strictly business, and the mood is tense. Don Dexter looks Don right in the eye. Don we need to talk. Let's talk then. It's about Bud. Don knows exactly where this conversation is headed. When Don fingered Bud to the press, he knew there was a chance Bud would find out. What he was a risk worth taking. Don's not blaming Bud to be cruel, though there's certainly no love lost between them. Don is trying to protect the President. Bud is angry, Don. He sent me this. It's a copy of a private message sent to Poindexter from Bud McFarland. On Bud resigned in late 1985, Don was happy to see him go. But Don knows full well, but never really left the White House. He keeps a secure line to Poindexter and Holly North through his NSC computer and stays in close communication with them both. Read it. I don't need to read it, John. I know what it says. Don. Read it. Don begrudgingly picks up the piece of paper and scams the document. One sentence sticks out in particular. He writes, this will be the second lie Don Regan has sown against my character and I won't stand for it. He's threatening to sue you for singling him out. Be smart Don. We need Bud on our side. I need to know you're going to back off. But backing off is not what Don does. He's a scrapper. He grew up poor in the Irish section of Boston, but he pulled himself up by his bootstraps. A year after the outbreak of World War II, he dropped out of Harvard Law School to join the Marine Corps. After the war, Don took a job at Merrill Lynch. He worked his way up to the top, becoming Merrill's chairman and CEO before going to work in government. Don didn't make it to the top by backing down from a fight. But he knows Pointexter has a point. Blaming Bud might protect the president, but Bud could hurt him too. He could hurt all of them because Bud knows everything about Iran's contra. So Don, reluctantly agrees. All right, John, I'll back off. Thank you, Don. There are records proving this breakfast meeting happened, but not exactly what was said in the conversation. But there are records of a private message Pointexter sent to Bud right after the breakfast. The message is short and to the point. Don will keep his mouth shut. On the morning of November 10th, Reagan and his top advisors gathered at the White House. The Al Shiraah story has been public knowledge for a week, and the press is demanding answers. The question is, how will Reagan respond? Most of Reagan's advisors want the president to stay silent. But his chief of staff, Don Regan sees it differently. Reagan is getting murdered in the press, and Don wants Reagan to be proactive in the meeting Don implores the president. We must get a statement out now. We are being attacked and we are being hurt. Reagan agrees. We must say something, he says, and then adds Kabia, but not much. For one thing, the Houseages are still in the hands of terrorists, and any statement might provoke their captors to violence. For another thing, if Reagan is too forthcoming, he might provoke Congress into taking action against him. National Security Advisor John Pointexter has a solution to Reagan's dilemma. He lays out a narrative for the room, a false narrative. The Iran operation was never about arms for hostages he proposes. It was about reengaging Iran, an establishing contact with moderate elements inside the country, and it only started after Reagan signed a formal finding in January 1986. Anything that happened before was all Israel's doing. But Don thinks this approach makes the president vulnerable. Don wants to protect the president, and in order to do that, he believes that eventually someone's head will have to roll. Don wants other than the president's. From Don's perspective, Pointexter's narrative is not protecting the president. It's putting him in harm's way. But Don also knows it's not his decision to make. In the end, this decision, like all decisions, belongs to President Reagan. Ultimately, Reagan accepts Pointexter's false narrative. But before Reagan tells the story to the American people, he'll have to tell it to Congress. In mid November 1985, members of the press aren't the only ones demanding answers about the Iran arms deal. Since the Al Sharah story broke, Congress has been putting pressure on the White House to make a disclosure about what really happened. In response, Reagan decides to meet Congress head on. On November 12th, at 2 o clock PM, nine days after the Al Sharah story breaks, Reagan and his top advisors hold a closed door meeting with key members of Congress in the situation room. There are some big congressional players present, Senate Minority Leader Robert Bird, future presidential candidate Bob Dole, and a no nonsense congressman from Wyoming, House Representative Dick Cheney. Dole and Cheney are Republicans, and their big supporters are Ronald Reagan. But today, they're here to ask tough questions about the Iran arms deal. Questions like, did the United States trade arms for hostages? And if so, who knew what when? The Euron Operation was about reengaging Iran and establishing contact with moderate elements inside the country. It was never about arms for hostages. Right off the bat, Senator Bird asks a tough question. When did we first make contact with Iran? Point extra answers. The process began in November 1985. But point extra claims no transfer of material had taken place until Reagan signed the finding in January 86. Point extra does not tell the congressman about the November 1985 Hawk Mission, or the finding Reagan signed after the fact, the finding that was never delivered to Congress. Point extra ceded at a table in the White House, with some of the most powerful men in the country, lies. Point extra is not the only one bending the truth in the meeting. Reagan tells the congressman that the Iran initiative was principally a covert intelligence operation that involved no negotiations with terrorists. Its purpose was to enhance America's position in the Middle East. Don Reagan doesn't say much in the meeting, but he has to be frustrated. His goal is to protect President Reagan. And Reagan just played fast and loose with the truth to Congress, which makes his job of protecting the president all that much harder. After the meeting, Reagan is frustrated. The congressman is skeptical, the media is still in a frenzy, and the target is still squarely on Reagan's back. Right after the meeting, Secretary of State George Schultz pulls Don Reagan aside. He tells Don the same thing he's been saying since the Al Shira story first broke. Reagan is in serious trouble. He urges Don. The president must come forward and tell the truth. It's the only way to get the people on his side and to get Congress off his back. Don calms Schultz down. The president has made his decision about what he wants to say about the Iran deal. It's important now that everyone stays on the same page and sticks to the company line. Don asked Schultz to make the rounds on the Sunday talk shows to get the word out. President Reagan did not trade arms for hostages. That's been his policy and that will always be his policy. Schultz agrees, but deep down he's very worried. A few days back, in a closed door meeting between Reagan and his advisors, Schultz was the lone man advocating that Reagan go public with the whole truth. When point extras false narrative was floated in the meeting, Schultz was incredulous. He asked the room, how can you say the hostages and then missile shipments aren't linked? Reagan fired back. It's not linked. Schultz left the meeting early. He stormed back to the State Department. One of his aid asked if everything was all right and Schultz exploded. He railed against Reagan's advisors. They're distorting the record. They're trying to get the president to lie. They're dragging him down a drain. Its water gate all over again. Schultz isn't the only one worried that Iran could be another water gate. In his diary on the same day as the meeting with Congress, President Reagan writes, the press looks like it's trying to create another water gate. I want to go public and tell the people the truth. We are trying to arrange it for tomorrow. The next day, on November 13, 10 days after the Al Sharaah story broke, Reagan addresses the nation from the Oval Office. But what he gives them isn't exactly the truth. Good evening. I know you've been reading, seeing and hearing a lot of stories the past several days, attributed to Danish sailors, unnamed observers at Italian ports and Spanish harbors, and especially unnamed government officials of my administration. As Will Rogers once said, rumor travels faster, but it don't stay put as long as truth. So let's get to the facts. The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon. That the United States undercut its allies and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists. Those charges are utterly false. The United States has not made concessions to those who hold our people captive in Lebanon, and we will not. The United States has not swapped boatloads of plane loads of American weapons for the return of American hostages, and we will not. As President, I've always operated on the belief that given the facts, the American people will make the right decision. I believe that to be true now. Thank you. God bless. The public doesn't buy it. After his address, President Reagan's popularity starts to plummet. Paul show that for every American who accepts Reagan's version of events, six more doubt him. They believe Reagan's administration traded arms for hostages, that Reagan knew about the operation, and he authorized it. But still he denied it over and over again. On November 12, he denied it to Congress in the situation room. On November 13, he denied it to the American people in his Oval Office address. But after that address, there are numerous leaks from the White House, and the false narrative starts to unravel. The same day as Reagan's televised remarks, reporters put the screws to point extra. He caves under the pressure. Point extra admits that a small amount of weapons had gone to Iran in connection with the first release of a hostage. This is a major problem for the President. The Prime Minister's confession confirms on the record that Reagan was not telling the whole truth, not to Congress and not to the American people. But in a press conference on November 19, Reagan doubles down. Mr. President, you have stated flatly and you stated flatly again tonight that you did not trade weapons for hostages. And yet, this record shows that every time an American hostage was released, last September, this July, and again, just this very month, there have been a major shipment of arms just before that. Are we all to believe that was just a coincidence? Chris, the only thing I know about major shipments of arms, as I've said, everything that we sold them could be put in one cargo plane and there would be plenty of room left over. Sorry if I made the poll show that a lot of American people just simply don't believe you, but the one thing that you've had going for you more than anything else in your presidency, your credibility has been severely damaged. Can you repair it? What does it mean for the rest of your presidency? Well, I imagine I'm the only one around who wants to repair it and I didn't do have anything to do with dissent if damaging it. Reagan's words might be true to him, but Don Regan, who is watching in the wings, knows they're not true to the facts. With every statement he makes, Reagan digs the whole deeper and edges closer to the precipice of danger. Everyone wants to get the press and the American people and by extension, Congress, off the president's back. Don knows for that to happen, someone will have to take the fall and in order for that to happen, everyone in the White House will have to speak with a unified voice. But in order to craft a convincing narrative, you have to start from a baseline of truth. No more contradictions, no more slips. President Reagan is having a difficult time with that concept. Don is starting to understand that the protection president Reagan needs is not protection from his political enemies or his detractors in the media. Reagan needs protection from himself. OK, the kids are already asking what's for dinner, but breaking news, empty fridge. That's OK, I'll instacart. Let's add some organic asparagus and some farm fresh chicken. Easy. Wait, is the oldest vegetarian this week or was it gluten free? Gluten free pasta, covered either way, cart it, and finally some vegetarian gluten free olives from my well earned cocktail. When your family shopping list has more footnotes than groceries, the world is your cart. Visit instacart.com or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for limited time, minimum order $10. Resubject to availability, additional terms apply. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad free by joining Wondery Plus in the Wondery app. Don Regan's desire to protect President Reagan goes beyond the call of duty. For one thing, Don likes the President, and the feeling is mutual. Don has a reputation for being rough around the edges. He doesn't have a lot of friends and politics, but he and Reagan are definitely kindred spirits. Secondly, there's something else that might be driving Don, a feeling of personal responsibility. Don once boasted that not even a sparrow could fly through the White House without his hearing about it. He has a tight lid on everything, and yet this Iran Contra scandal is unraveling on his watch, and his friend, President Reagan, is in the line of fire. On November 20th, 17 days after the Al Shira story breaks, Don Regan and Secretary of State George Schultz meet with President Reagan in the family quarters of the White House. For 45 minutes, Schultz tries desperately to get Reagan to face the truth. He did trade arms for hostages, but Reagan doesn't see it. He contends that because he never intended to trade arms for hostages, he had never done so. Schultz reminds the President that Bud McFarland had told him about the 1985 hawk shipment. In response, I knew about that, but that wasn't arms for hostages. Schultz is gobsmacked. He later tells an aide, we didn't shake him one bit, he refuses to see we have a problem. Reagan is blind to his own potential culpability, but there is someone else who fully understands the gravity of the situation. Reagan's attorney general, Ed Mies. At first glance, Ed Mies doesn't look like much. His droopy skin and permanent bags under his exhausted looking eyes. But Ed is a smart, calculating man, a fistidious man known for taking copious, detailed notes. And like most around him in the administration, he is fiercely loyal to Ronald Reagan. Ed has been following the Iran story closely, and like Don, he's worried about the President's public statements. He's worried Reagan is backing himself into a corner he cannot get out of. On the morning of November 21st, 18 days after the Al Shiraah story breaks, Ed decides to take matters into his own hands. He gathers his top deputies in his office in DC and lays out his plan. Ed tells his staff he's going to convince President Reagan that a fact finding mission is needed, an internal investigation to find out the answer to the question everyone is asking about the Iran deal. Who knew what and when? The Iran deal is a national security council operation, so before Ed goes to the President, he calls the head of the NSC, national security adviser John Pointexter. It's bright and early on Friday, November 21st, 1986. National security adviser Pointexter sits at his desk, pouring over large stack of memos. This is Pointexter, John Attet. Pointexter isn't surprised to get a call from Attorney General Ed Mies. Ed Mies have been in constant contact throughout the month of November. The Iran armed scandal is a major crisis, and it's all hands on deck. What can I do for you? Listen, there's a disagreement in the Cabinet about what happened in November 85 with the hawk shipment. I've told you everything I know. I know you have. I'm meeting with the President at the White House at 11.30. We're going to talk through the timeline with the Cabinet to try and sort out the disagreement. I'd like you to be there. Of course. I don't think I have to tell you how important this November hawk situation is. If the President knew about it in advance, yes, I know. Well, we just need to get this thing cleared up to make sure we're all on the same page. Absolutely. One of the things, John. Yes. I'm going to be sending over a few of my people this afternoon to help me piece the puzzle together. I was hoping you might pull some documents for my guys. What documents? Just anything pertinent, anything material. Can I count on you? Of course, Ed. You're my full cooperation. Great. I'll see you at the meeting. When PointXR hangs up the phone, he knows what he has to do. PointXR has the CIA finding from the November 85 hawk mission in his office. The finding Reagan signed right after it went sideways. The finding that was never delivered to Congress. PointXR knows that document is an embarrassment to the President. And even more, he knows it's a serious legal liability. So PointXR takes the finding in his hands and tears it to pieces. PointXR and Edmys meet with President Reagan in the White House later that day. Chief of Staff Don Reagan joins them. Ed believes that if Reagan knew about the 85 hawk shipment and if he authorized it and if he didn't inform Congress, then the president is in serious jeopardy. Ed tells Reagan that he wants to nail down the facts and put together a complete version of the truth. He asks Reagan to give him the weekend to sort it out. Reagan agrees and officially orders Ed to launch a fact finding mission. The real purpose of Ed's expedition is subject to debate. It's either an honest attempt to help President Reagan understand the truth or it's an attempt to cover it up while making it look like no stone was left unturned. On Saturday morning, the day after his meeting with Reagan, Ed sits down with Secretary of State George Schultz. Schultz tells Ed the president admitted knowing about the November 85 hawk shipment, but Ed already knows that. He attended a meeting earlier in the month where the hawk shipments were discussed. The two Israeli shipments that predated the hawk shipments were also discussed. Ed is a meticulous note taker. Over the weekend, Ed calls Don Reagan on the phone multiple times to talk about what he knows. But curiously, Ed does not take notes during those calls. In fact, he doesn't keep any record of his talks with Don. When asked later about the content of these conversations, Ed will say he does not recall. Don will say he doesn't recall either. A lot of people don't recall. Next Ed talks to Don's nemesis, bloodmick Farlin. Blood tells Ed that although he doesn't have proof in writing, there's no doubt in his mind. President Reagan definitely knew about the 1985 hawk shipment. Now Ed is questioning Reagan's cabinet. His deputies at the Justice Department start digging through NSC records. There's a mountain of paperwork, internal communications, memos, and routine filings. For the most part, it's typical bureaucratic red tape. But when they make their way to the records from Olly North's office, they find something explosive. When Ed me starts his internal fact finding investigation, the Iran operation is public knowledge, but the diversion is not. And the connection to Nicaragua is still under wraps. Throughout 1985 and 1986, there are rumors in the press about the contra operation. There are even rumors that Olly North is the one pulling the strings, but there was never a smoking gun. In October 1986, when Eugene Housenfuss is playing crashed into the Nicaraguan jungle, those rumors reached a fever pitch, but repeated denials from the Reagan administration, satisfied Congress, and reduced the heat from the press. And when the Al Sharah story broke, the media's attention shifted away from Nicaragua completely. No one knew the two stories were linked, but Olly did. So when Ed starts his fact finding expedition, Olly knows he's in hot water. Olly also knows it's only a matter of time before lawyers from the Department of Justice search his office. And if the paper trail for Iran contra is discovered, it could be a serious problem for President Reagan and for Olly too. On November 21st, Olly North fires up his government issue in dust real strength paper shredder and starts destroying documents. He doesn't do it alone. He has the help of his personal secretary, a fiercely loyal woman from Virginia named Fawn Hall. It's November 21st, 1986. For Fawn Hall, the day starts like any other. She drives a 1600 pencil vanu Avenue, makes her way through security and walks downstairs to the basement of the White House. She makes a pot of coffee, pours herself a cup, and heads to her desk. Fawns come a long way from her hometown of Anandale, Virginia. Anandale is only about a half hour southwest of DC, but for a southern gal from pretty much nowhere, the office of the National Security Council is a big deal. That Friday morning, her boss bursts into the room. Fawn! Yes, sir? I need your help. Normally Colonel North is a pretty happy go lucky guy. Today though, something's different. Fawn knows right away that whatever's going on, it is serious. What do you need, Colonel? I've marked up these documents. Okay. I need you to make some alterations. The Colonel's stricken through several sentences on each page, and he scribbled some handwritten notes in the margins. From what Fawn can see, there's something about $20 million from Saudi Arabia, and something about a Nicaraguan merchant ship, but Fawn doesn't know what any of it means. Can you make these alterations for me, Fawn? This is top priority. The question gives her pause. She may not understand the context of the papers, but she knows this much. Altering official documents is not part of her job description. It might even be illegal. But Colonel North is a good man. He's been a good boss. He wouldn't be asking if it weren't important. I'll get right on it, sir. Follow the new ones and bring the originals to my office straight away. And then he starts to go. Colonel Wade, I think there's something wrong with this document? What do you mean wrong? There's a box at the bottom of the first page. It looks like it's meant to show Mr. McFarlane's approval? Yeah, what about it? Well, it's not checked on the original. Should I add a check mark? Yes. Thank you, Fawn. Yes, sir. With that, he's gone. Fawn slides him from the keyboard, types up the new memos, and files them away. She heads to the Colonel's office to give him the originals, but when she opens the door, he's not there. So she leaves the original memos, sitting on his desk, and closes the door behind her. Fawn? If you turn to find Colonel North standing outside his office near the paper shredder, the stack of documents two feet tall in his hands. Can you help me with these two? Fawn doesn't give it a second thought. She doesn't ask questions. If Colonel North needs her help, that's her job. She grabs a document from the stack and shoves it in the shredder. It's in another, and another, and another, and to the whole stack disappears. Whether Fawn knows it or not, her boss just committed several felonies, and so did she. Fawn will later say that the infamous shredding party on November 21st was no big deal, but that's not true. It was a big deal, and it will come back to haunt them both. Together Fawn and Oli destroyed 15 months worth of private messages between Oli and members of his staff. No one will ever know the true content of those documents, except for Oli and Fawn. Over the weekend Oli sits down for his interview with Ed Mies. Ed grills him about the Iran operation, but Oli plays a cool. He's not worried, and why should he be? If the president knew about this mission, if he authorized it, then Oli has nothing to fear. Besides, Ed does not know Oli has altered documents. He doesn't know about the thousands of pages Oli and Fawn shoved into the shredder on November 21st. Oli has covered his tracks. Except Oli neglected to destroy one document, which Ed Mies's lawyers found when they searched Oli's office the day before. A document proving conclusively that profits from the arms for hostage's deal were funneled to the Contras in Nicaragua. A document that will come to be known as the Diversion Menel. Hey, it's Guy Ross here. On my podcast How I Built This, I share the mic with the founders of some of the world's best known companies. But How I Built This Isn't Your Average Business Podcast? Every episode is a rollercoaster of emotions. And by tapping into the hearts and minds of entrepreneurs, we can learn how the complex decisions they made years ago paved the way for their monumental success. But it's not just conversations about past successes. My guests and I also explore the novel and innovative ideas they're pursuing right now. The goal of our podcast is to inspire you with relatable stories so you approach challenges like their opportunities, just like an entrepreneur. So if you want to learn to think differently, follow How I Built This Wherever You're Listening Right Now. And to new episodes one week early on Amazon Music or Early and Add Free by subscribing to Wondery Plus in Apple Podcasts or on the Wondery app. On November 24, 1986, Don Regan sits down for a meeting in the situation room with President Reagan and the top members of the National Security Planning Group. Normally, AIDS and other senior officials are present for the NSPG meetings. But today, the chairs lining the walls are empty. Today, it's just the top dogs. That's because today's topic is especially sensitive. It's about more the national security. It's fraught with political and legal implications, which is why there's a special guest in the room, Attorney General Ed Mies. The cabinet is still at odds over what really happened and what the President knew. When Reagan is starting to lose his composure, he pounces fist on the table and roars. I did not trade arms for hostages. Ed Mies is the only one in the room who has spoken to all the players in an official capacity. Don Regan turns to him and asks the million dollar question. Did the President approve the 1985 Hawk transaction? Everyone in the room already knows the answer. Ed Mies knows. Don Regan and George Schultz know. Reagan admitted it to them both a few days earlier, oh I knew about that, but that wasn't arms for hostages. But the question posed, did Reagan know about the 85 Hawk missile deal? Isn't the question needing an answer? The real question is, who is going to take the blame for this? Finally, point next year speaks up with a bold claim. Bud handled the Israel Iran sales alone. The reason for this is that the Hawk shipman was illegal, there's no doubt, but the President didn't know anything about it because Bud did not tell him. It's a lie. Everyone in the room knows it, but no one pushes back. No one says a word. It's significant to note that in the meeting on November 24th, Ed Mies doesn't mention the diversion memo. Neither does Don Regan. Maybe that's because the diversion is just the thing Don and Ed need to protect the President. A cohesive narrative that will point the finger of blame somewhere else. But Don knows that Bud McFarlane's head on a silver platter is not enough. Bud has already resigned, he's a private citizen now. Don needs someone in office in the Reagan administration to lay the blame on. So Don takes this game one step further. After the meeting on November 24th, Don circulates a private memo titled Plano Action. He writes, tough as it seems, blame must be put at NSC's door. Rogue operations going on without President's knowledge or consent. In the memo, Regan calls for the resignation of National Security Advisor John Poindexer and the ousting of Oliver North. After reading Don's memo, Poindexer gets a panic call from one of Olly's subordinates. Are you resigning? Poindexer doesn't answer. The caller pushes back. May it your post, Admiral, force the President to step up to the plate and take responsibility for his actions. But Poindexer knows it's over. He's been flanked by Don Regan and Edmonds. He responds, it's too late. They're building a wall around him. On November 25th, Regan calls a press conference to announce the result of the Attorney General's investigation. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States. First Friday, after becoming concerned whether my national security apparatus had provided me with a security or a complete factual record with respect to the implementation of my policy toward Iran, I directed the Attorney General to undertake a review of this matter over the weekend and report to me on Monday. And yesterday, Secretary Mies provided me in the White House Chief of Staff with a report on his preliminary findings. And this report led me to conclude that I was not fully informed on the nature of one of the activities undertaken in connection with this initiative. This action raises serious questions of propriety. I've just met with my national security advisers and congressional leaders to inform them with the actions that I'm taking today. Although not directly involved, Vice Admiral John Poindexter has asked to be relieved of his assignment as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and to return to another assignment in Haiti. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North has been relieved of his duties on the National Security Council staff. And now, I'm going to ask Attorney General Mies to bring in, fries, to quickly wrap it up, but the press has questions they want. Did you make a mistake in sending arms to take a round, sir? No, and I'm not taking any more questions, and just a second, I'm going to ask Attorney General Mies to brief you on what we presently know of what he has found out. No one was let go, they chose to go. What about Secretary Schultz? At Mies quickly takes the podium as Reagan exits to a barrage of questions. When the press has quieted, he drops a massive bomb. The issue Reagan wasn't fully informed. Why don't I tell you what is the situation, and then I'll take your questions. What is involved is an in the course of the arms transfers which involved the United States providing the arms to Israel, and Israel in turn transferring the arms in effect, selling the arms to representatives of Iran. Certain monies which were received in the transaction between representatives of Israel and representatives of Iran were taken and made available to the forces in Central America which are opposing the Sandinista government there. There's an audible gasp in the room. This is the moment the American people learn for the first time that two separate scandals in two separate countries on opposite sides of the globe are actually one. The moment when the world learns that money from the Iran deal was funneled to fund the contras in Nicaragua. Ed goes on to say the president knew nothing about the diversion and that the White House will be launching a full scale internal investigation into the matter. Ali will later write that the Reagan administration chose to focus almost exclusively on the diversion and there was certainly a lot to be gained in presenting it that way. This particular detail was so dramatic, so sexy that it might actually divert attention from other, even more important aspects of the story, such as what else the president and his top advisors had known about and approved. Ali isn't the only one who feels this way. A reporter at the November 25 press conference asks Ed Mies, what to prevent an increasingly cynical public from thinking that you went looking for escape goat and came up with this whopper, even though it doesn't have a lot to do with the original controversy. Ed is evasive. The president's priority is to lay out the facts just as rapidly as he gets them, to be sure that there is no hint that anything is trying to be concealed. The reporter's question about scapegoating is a perceptive one and the reporter won't be the last to ask that type of question. Meanwhile, as Fawn Hall watches the press conference from North's office, she's terrified because Fawn realizes she's made a terrible mistake. Some of the original memos, the ones she altered at the Colonel's behest, were never destroyed. It's unclear why she didn't destroy them. Maybe she didn't think she needed to, or maybe, in the chaos of the shredding party, she simply forgot. But after the official announcement that her boss has been fired and Mies's revelation about the diversion, Fawn Hall is starting to grasp just how much trouble she and Colonel North might be in. As well on November 25th, she stuffs the original memos into her blouse, sneaks and past NSC officials who are sealing off the office and delivers them personally to Colonel North. There's another important person watching the press conference on November 25th. His name is Lawrence Walsh. Walsh is a lifelong Republican, a former deputy attorney general, and a former prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. In his 70s now, Walsh's day of public service are far behind him. That day, he watches Reagan's press conference from his home in Oklahoma City. Reporter asked Ed Mies another question, will Ed consider appointing a special prosecutor to look into the matter? Ed, as always, is calculated and measured in his response. He says he wants to wait for the facts. At the moment though, he sees no need for outside help. But on December 6th, 1986, a little more than a week after that press conference, Ed Miesh will get outside help. Lawrence Walsh receives a phone call from a federal judge offering him a job. Not long after, he'll pack his bags, fly to DC and launch one of the most controversial investigations in American political history. On the first Sunday of 1987, Walsh, the newly appointed independent counsel for the Iran Contra investigation, begins his journey by checking into the infamous Watergate Hotel. From Warnery, this is episode three of six of Iran Contra for American scandal. On the next episode, independent prosecutor Lawrence Walsh is called to DC to find out the truth. He expects a tough fight with the Reagan administration, but his first opponent is the United States Congress. If you'd like to learn more about Iran Contra, we recommend the book's Firewall by Lawrence Walsh, Under Fire by Oliver North, and Special Trust by Badmik Farley. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details, and while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, sound designed, and executive produced by me Lindsey Graham for Airship, additional production assistance by Derek Barons. This episode is written by Stephen Walters, edited by Andrew Stelser, our consultant is Malcolm Bern. American producers are Stephanie Gens, Marshal Louis and her nonlopes for Warnery.