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Iran Contra: The Inner Circle  | 5

Iran Contra: The Inner Circle | 5

Tue, 25 Dec 2018 07:05

Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh sets his sights on the White House and tries to answer the question everyone has been asking: Exactly how much did President Reagan know and when did he know it?

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It's March 21st, 1990, in a district courtroom in Washington, D.C. Judge Harold H. Green sits at the bench. From his elevated position, he overlooks the packed audience's spectators. To the left of Judge Green sits a panel of 12 jurors, 5 men, 7 women. Since John Poindexer's trial began in early March, these jurors have listened to hours of testimony. They've sacrificed weeks of their time in order to perform their civic duty. But today is a special day. Today the jurors are going to hear testimony from a very important person, former President Ronald Reagan. The bailiff opens a door at the back of the courtroom and wheels several television sets to the front of the jury box. One month earlier, Reagan gave a taped deposition in a federal courthouse in Los Angeles, California. Now, that tape will be played before the jury. Judge Green makes a brief statement. He reminds the jury that Ronald Reagan is a witness like any other, and that he should not be given special consideration. After his gentle admonishment, Judge Green nods to the bailiff. He dims the lights and presses play. The witness, from whom we will hear this morning, is the former President of the United States, Ronald W. Reagan. Would you call the witness? And if the thanks calls Ronald Reagan, I'll turn it in. Mr. President, I see you. Say what you want. I'll talk with the minister of the oath, too. He saw us wearing testimony about to give and to call us now before this court. To be the truth, the whole truth, and not to put the truth in our court. I do. But to please change your full names by your last name for the rest. Ronald Reagan, R.E.A.G.A. Deference for the former President is palpable as the clerk adjusts Reagan's microphone and ensures that he's comfortable. The judge expresses his appreciation for Reagan's testimony before he begins, then point excerpts attorney introduces himself and begins. Let me just say that there are basically, and I do have a lot of documents here to refresh your recollection, but I don't think it's going to be necessary to do that. There was a statement by you to the public, a televised statement on November 13th, talking just about the missile shipments to Iran. And then there was a press conference six days later on November 19th. Between the November 13th and the November 19th, addresses that you made to the nation. Did you receive information from Apple Point Exeter that enabled you to make those presentations to the public? I don't recall. Reagan seems to be suffering from what Olly North once called the Great Plague of Amnesia. Would you have met with anybody during that time frame in order to make those presentations? Well, I'm not denying whether I met with others. It's just that I don't recall. Right, because it was at that same press conference in fact that Admiral Point Exeter pointed out at the end of the press conference that there was certain information that was no longer protected having to do with Israel. Do you recall that at all? No, I don't. I asked you before, and I'm not going to belabor it, I just wonder if you recall the day before that, November 12th, you attended a meeting with congressional leaders. And Admiral Point Exeter was with you at that meeting when you met with the congressman. Was he not? That I don't recall at all. But that would be the kind of a meeting that the National Security Advisor would attend with you. Yes, and possibly other cabinet members or staff members, but I don't recall. In total, the jurors listen to eight hours of testimony from the former president. Over the course of his two day interview, Reagan says he does not recall or does not remember 88 times. It's not hard to imagine the members of the jury are asking themselves the same question Lawrence Walsh had been asking since he began his investigation three years ago. Is Reagan telling the truth? Is it possible that he really doesn't remember any of the details surrounding Iran contra? These questions invariably force Walsh to consider another, even more troubling possibility, that maybe Reagan's not lying. Maybe his mind is starting to slip away. It's been gone for some time. 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. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scandal. In the last episode, Independent Council Lawrence Walsh arrived in Washington and launched his investigation into the Iran contra affair. Walsh has a long list of potential targets for prosecution. National Security Council staffer Ali North was first on his list. Reagan's former National Security adviser, John Poindexer, is second. On April 7, 1990, after six days of deliberation, a jury finds Poindexer guilty on five counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and lying to Congress. He sentenced to six months in jail. His decided victory, but the feeling of triumph is short lived. In July 1990, three months after Poindexer's trial, a federal court overturns Ali North's conviction on appeal. From the beginning, Walsh was worried that Ali North's immunized testimony before Congress would taint his investigation in anyone he brought to trial, and he was right. Then, shortly after his conviction, Poindexer files for an appeal as well, and appeal Walsh feels Poindexer will likely win for the same reasons, and he's right again. Fifteen months after he has found guilty, Poindexer's conviction is overturned. Walsh is facing other issues as well, as the total price tag for his investigation rapidly approaches $25 million, criticism on Capitol Hill begins to swell. Many Republicans in Congress call for the investigation to be shut down. Others attack Walsh personally, suggesting his investigation is politically motivated. Walsh is at a crossroads. Does he bend to pressure and wrap up the investigation? Or does he follow the facts wherever they lead? Walsh has dedicated his life to the law. He sworn oath to uphold the Constitution. As independent council, he has a duty to find out the truth, and so he's not going to stop until the job is done. By February 1990, he has secured guilty pleas from six people in the White House, including Budmick Farland, Ali North, and John Poindexer. As Walsh slowly works his way up the ladder of Reagan's administration, his eyes are firmly fixed on two men at the top, former President Ronald Reagan, and current President George H. W. Bush. This is episode five, The Inner Circle. It's fall 1990, six months after the trial, John Poindexer. Lawrence Walsh sits at his desk at a local FBI office in Oklahoma City, pouring over memos and documents related to the Iran contra investigation. He has given up his room at the Watergate Hotel to spare the government the cost of putting him up. These days, he spends most of his time working remotely. Today, Walsh is distracted. His eyes drift over to the phone on his desk. He knows it's only a matter of time before it rings. A few weeks back, Walsh issued a grand jury subpoena for Casper Weinberger, Ronald Reagan's former Secretary of Defense. Weinberger is a private citizen now, the publisher for the illustrious Forbes magazine. For days, Weinberger has been dodging Walsh's agents, but earlier today, as he tried to exit through the service entrance behind his Manhattan office, the agents finally caught up with him and handed him a subpoena. Hello, Lawrence Walsh. Lawrence, it's Bill Rogers. I suppose you know why I'm calling. Casper Weinberger? Yep, I'm representing his interest in this matter. Are you investigating him? We just want to talk to him, Bill. He opposed the arm sales consistently from the very beginning. We're not planning to pursue charges at this time. We just want to talk. That's all. Honestly, we could use his help. We think his notes might provide valuable insight. Mr. Weinberger already turned over his notes to the Congressional Committees. It's all been deposited in the Library of Congress. Yeah. Can you ask him if he has any other notes that might be relevant? Anything he hasn't turned over? Yeah, I can do that. Thank you. All right. I'll be in touch. Walsh doesn't say it on the phone, but he knows Weinberger did not turn over all of his notes. He knows this because Weinberger's old rival secretary of state George Schultz said so. Two months ago, a member of Walsh's team found a memo dictated to Schultz's assistant. The memo stated that Weinberger took detailed notes, but that he was never forced to call them up. A few days after the call, Weinberger's attorney calls again. Weinberger is willing to sit down for an interview. On October 10th, 1990, in the office of the Independent Council in Washington, DC, members of Walsh's staff, question Weinberger, FBI agent Mike Foster transcribes the interview. Normally, verbatim notes of preliminary interviews aren't standard procedure. Witnesses are usually given a chance to refresh their memories before officially going on the record. But this time, Walsh orders his team to take detailed notes, because Walsh expects that Casper Weinberger is not going to tell them the truth. With holding evidence against the law, so is making false statements to the office of the Independent Council. Nevertheless, Walsh gives Weinberger every chance to come clean. Before the meeting even starts, Walsh notifies Weinberger's attorney that they have evidence suggesting Weinberger did not turn over all of his notes. He even lets Weinberger read the transcript from a prior interview in which he discusses his note taking habit. And yet, in spite of all of this, in front of Walsh's team of FBI agents and prosecutors, Weinberger says he took some notes during his first year at the Department of Defense, but quickly discontinued the practice. He says he never took notes in meetings with the president or his cabinet when the Iran arms deal was discussed. He also says that whatever notes he did take were already turned over. He insists he did not withhold anything relevant from Congress or from the office of the Independent Council. It's all lies, and in less than a year, Walsh will be able to prove it. In November 1991, a member of Walsh's team digs through Weinberger's papers in the Library of Congress. He finds a trove of previously undisclosed notes that reveal the truth. Weinberger did not discontinue the practice of taking notes. He took detailed notes on an almost daily basis, and the content of his notes are explosive. The notes show Weinberger lied about his involvement in the arms for Hossages Operation. He lied to Congress about his activities, and he lied to conceal his notes first from Congress, then from Walsh and his team at the Office of the Independent Council. For Walsh, the question is, why did he lie? Did Weinberger lie to protect his own public image, maybe to protect the president or both? The notes show something else, too. Weinberger didn't just write about the arms for Hossages Operation. After the Iran's arms story broke in the press, Weinberger all but documented the cover up in his notes. Notes he had withheld from Congress, notes that might have led to Reagan's impeachment. For the first time, Walsh has a nearly complete picture of the Reagan administration's attempt to conceal their actions and protect the president. In April 1992, Walsh and his team meet at the Office of the Independent Council to discuss how to deal with Weinberger. In Walsh's opinion, Weinberger should be charged with participating in a continuing coverup of Ronald Reagan's illegal actions and a massive obstruction of Iran's contract. In Walsh's view, Weinberger's misconduct is part of a broader pattern of obstruction by the Reagan administration that began in November 1986. The obstruction included withholding information from Congress, blocking Walsh's work by overclassification by identifying documents, lying to Congress, lying to the grand jury, and lying to Walsh's staff. For Walsh, the issue of concealment lies at the heart of his investigation, concealment of the truth to protect the president. But it would be impossible for Walsh to prosecute every government official who concealed notes in relation to Iran's contract. There are far too many, and each of those individual cases would take months. Patients for Walsh's investigation in Congress and with the American people is already growing thin. Since the Walsh decides to make an example of Casper Weinberger, the highest ranking of all the offenders. Two months later, in June 1992, Weinberger is indicted and charged with five felonies, one count of obstructing a congressional investigation, two counts of making false statements, and two charges of perjury. Shortly after the indictment, Walsh's penis former president Ronald Reagan has a witness. For the first time, Reagan will be forced to sit down with Lawrence Walsh face to face. A month after Weinberger's indictment, Lawrence Walsh flies to California to personally take Reagan's deposition. They meet in Reagan's office on the avenue of the stars in Los Angeles. Reagan is polite and cordial. He even offers Walsh a snack, licorice jelly beans, his favorite treat. But when Walsh starts to question Reagan on the details of Iran's contra, the former president's recollection is even fogger than it was during Point Exor's trial. Walsh has not even been out of office for four years, but he doesn't remember basic details about his presidency. Walsh has to remind him of simple, innocuous details, like the fact that his former national security adviser, John Point Exor, resigned. During a break, Reagan takes Walsh to the window of his office. He happily points out the sights of the city. Walsh is captivated by his charm and his kindness. Reagan is a superstar, a famous actor, and a beloved president. The Walsh can also see that Reagan's star is fading. He can see that the president is disabled. He can also see how it would be hard for other people to notice, because Reagan, even in his deteriorated state, is extremely appealing. Before Walsh leaves the meeting, he tells Reagan's lawyer what must have already seemed obvious. Reagan is not fit to stand trial in his own defense. Walsh will not be bringing charges against him. But that does not mean Walsh intends to back off his former secretary of defense, Casper Weinberger. On July 29, 1992, an article appears in the Baltimore Sun reporting Republicans in Congress have demanded a full accounting of the money Lawrence Walsh has spent on the investigation. Leading the charge is a senator from Kansas named Bob Dull. Dull has been a vocal critic of Walsh throughout the investigation. Now, he's demanding Walsh leave Iran contra where it belongs in the history books. Shortly after the Sun article, Reuters reports that Walsh's investigation costs more than $32 million. And from the money spent, Walsh has very little to show for it. Six years after the investigation began, the reporter writes, The last of the hostages have been freed. Democratic elections have been held in Nicaragua, and the threat of world communist domination seems remote. So why is Walsh driven to continue? Republicans are starting to suspect that Lawrence Walsh's investigation has been politicized, infected by partisan politics. Some people call it a witch hunt. Walsh isn't the only one under fire. As George H. W. Bush gears up for re election in 1992, it seems the political winds are blowing in a new direction. In 1988, he was elected to fulfill the promise of the Reagan presidency. And now America seems ready for a change. And that change comes. In the form of a charismatic governor from Arkansas, named Bill Clinton. It's October 25, 1992. Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton speaks to a crowd of supporters gathered for an outdoor rally at a Michigan high school. Governor Clinton criticizes Bush's economic policies, saying those policies resulted in lost jobs in the U.S. and the exploitation of workers in Central America. And then he goes beyond disparaging policy by implying Bush's White House is riddled with corruption. It is so strange to look at what is going on in Washington today and put it against the real problems of real people. It's impossible to figure. We've got a president who came here to Michigan today one more time saying we ought to trust him with four more years. And I look at the government over which he presides. I mean, can you believe it? He's here talking about law enforcement and in Washington, the FBI and the Justice Department are so busy investigating each other they don't have any time for crooks anymore. But in late October 1992, Bill Clinton is not Bush's only problem. Bush is about to get an unwelcome surprise from independent counsel Lawrence Walsh. In October 30th, Lawrence Walsh arrives home after a long day of work. His wife says to him, you are all over the news today. Walsh is confused. He asks her, what news? We didn't do anything newsworthy today. But Walsh's office did do something that day. In his mind, it wasn't a big deal. His office filed what's called a superseding indictment, an adjustment to the charges against Casper Weinberger. But the indictment itself is not what was newsworthy. It was what the indictment contained. Information that George H. W. Bush had not been entirely truthful with the American people. Even more, it's the fact that it was filed just days before the election. Since the Iran Arms deal went public, George Bush claimed he did not support the sale of arms for hostages. The superseding indictment contained information to the contrary, though. The decision to include that information was not made by Walsh. He was made by senior members of his staff. Bush later claimed that he did not order his staff to include the Bush information in the superseding indictment. He claims that he was not aware of it. He also says it was not a politically motivated decision by him or anyone else. But Walsh does feel bad. He likes Bush. And he never meant to treat him unfairly, especially with an election just a few days away. Sitting at home on October 30th, Walsh almost picks up the phone to call President Bush and explain. But he decides against it. In the final days of the 1992 election, the Clinton campaign uses the information in the Weinberger indictment to call Bush a liar. In response, Bush calls Walsh's investigation something too, a big witch hunt. On November 3rd, 1992, Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd President of the United States. Republican Senator Bob Dole is certain Lawrence Walsh is to blame. Six days after the election, on November 9th, Dole goes on CBS's Face the Nation with a list of demands. He calls for an end to the Iran contra investigation and the launch of a new investigation to determine whether or not politics played any part in the indictment of Casper Weinberger. He makes more pointed claims as well. Dole says the grand jury charge against Mr. Weinberger was obtained by a Walsh aide who contributed $500 to the campaign of President elect Bill Clinton. He says the aide also worked for a law firm that contributed $20,000 to the Clinton campaign. And then Dole takes it one step further. He says that President Bush should pardon everyone convicted by the Office of the Independent Council. Walsh feels Bob Dole has crossed the line. Walsh is a lifelong Republican. He was a supporter of Ronald Reagan. And throughout the entire Iran contra affair, Walsh resisted speaking out publicly. He felt saying too much about his work would be improper. Walsh has a job to do and that job has nothing to do with partisan politics. So, two days after Dole's face the nation interview, Walsh penned a letter that speaks volumes. He writes, I can recall no case where a Senate leader has so directly intruded himself in a pending lawsuit. Dole is basing his accusation on slim grounds, he says. There's no truth to Mr. Dole's suggestions. Walsh says his aide, the one being accused of partisanship, is a courageous lawyer who is willing to expose himself to unpopularity in order to carry out his responsibility. Walsh's message is clear, Dole is the only one politicizing the Iran contra investigation. But if Republicans feel Walsh is not being honest, many Americans feel the same way about former President Bush. They made their feelings known at the ballot box by voting him out of office. But the American people don't know the half of it. In November 1992, Bush has a secret, the secret he'd rather not see the light of day, a secret Lawrence Walsh is about to uncover. 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. And why 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. Call the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad free by joining Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. On December 11, 1992, an assistant on President Bush's staff gives Walsh and his team of lawyers in sender information. George H. W. Bush kept a diary. He started the diary six years earlier in November 1986, around the same time the Iran Contrast scandal exploded. Bush dictated observations and thoughts to his secretary at the end of every workday. He chronicled his work as Vice President for two years. From early November 86, all the way through his 88 presidential campaign. And he kept this diary a secret from nearly everyone. In September of 1992, two months before the election, Lawrence Walsh's office requested materials from President Bush. Bush says he told his staff to cooperate with the request. And Bush's staff did turn over a lot of documents, but they didn't turn over the diary. This wasn't the first time President Bush obfuscated when it came to the subject of diaries. In the trial of John Poindexer, two and a half years before Bush lost his bid for reelection, Poindexer's lawyers asked for President Reagan to release his private diaries. Diaries Reagan kept during the Iran Contra affair, with potentially incriminating information. In response, Reagan quickly invoked one of the many perks of his former job, executive privilege. Poindexer's lawyers pushed back hard. They claimed Reagan knew of and approved all of Poindexer's activities. And to prove it, they wanted to look in Reagan's diaries. Before he was forced to comply, President Bush stepped in and supported the former President's assertion of executive privilege, specifically on the issue of the diaries. At the time, Bush's intentions seemed entirely above board, just a President looking out for his friend and former boss, not to mention the office of the presidency. But in December 1992, Lawrence Walsh discovers that Bush's motivation for intervening on Reagan's behalf was perhaps more self interested. On December 11, 1992, Bush's assistant finally turns over some of Bush's diary entries, and it shows Bush knew more about the aspects of the Iran Contra affair than he had previously led on. He knew about the arms sales to Iran, and he knew about the quid pro quo dealings with countries that pledged to support the Contras. From Walsh's perspective, the facts clearly show that Bush did not want the American people to see his diary prior to the 1992 election, and he definitely did not want his notes to make their way to the office of the independent council. In Walsh's mind, there's no doubt Bush withheld evidence. The question now is will he let President Bush off the hook? Will he pursue prosecution? It's Christmas Eve 1992, two weeks after Walsh receives Bush's diary and less than two weeks before the trial of Casper Weinberger is set to begin. Walsh attends an event at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, the annual holiday breakfast of Walsh's former law firm, Crow, and Dunlevy. At the breakfast, Walsh sits next to the guest of honor. Walsh's chief justice, Marion Opaola, as the two men finish their coffee, Opaola brings up the elephant in the room, Iran Contra. For Lawrence Walsh, it's been a long road, and his investigation into Iran Contra is nearly complete. The priority for Walsh in December 1992 is the prosecution of Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. Opaola turns to Walsh. Do you think Bush will pardon Weinberger? Oh, I certainly hope not. If I was a betting man, I'd bet against it. Why's that? Bush has made some mistakes, but deep down I think integrity still matters to him. I just don't see him doing this, not 10 days away from Weinberger's trial. Opaola sees it another way, though. I think you're wrong. He won't do it now, but it's still too early. But I bet he'll do it the day before he leaves office. Walsh disagrees. Fourth write about his diary, but Walsh believes Bush is an honorable man who prides himself on his character. It seems inconceivable that Bush would abuse the powers of the presidency. After the breakfast, Walsh heads back to his house in Oklahoma City. Even on Christmas Eve Day, Walsh doesn't take a break from work, neither does his team. He has a conference call with his people at the Office of the Independent Council in DC. During the call, Walsh learns that the White House will be issuing a press release on Iran Contra at Midday in just a few hours. Walsh's team prepares for the worst. They draft a statement and secure a venue for a press conference of their own should a quick response be required. But noon comes and goes, and there's no press release from the White House. So at 12.30, Walsh decides to do something that is unnatural for him. He stops working, and he goes on to try and enjoy the day. Just as he starts to change out of his suit, he's brought right back. Walsh's wife answers the phone and hands it to Walsh. Next time in one hand, Walsh takes the phone in the other. A White House staffer on the other end of the line tells Walsh the news. Walsh's team in Bush is going to pardon Casper Weinberger, and Weinberger won't be alone. Former National Security Advisor Bud McFarland and four other government officials guilty of crimes related to Iran Contra will also be pardoned. Over the course of Walsh's six year investigation into the Iran Contra affair, he and his team have secured 12 convictions or guilty pleas. Two have been overturned. Now, on Christmas Eve 1992, President Bush pardoned six of the remaining ten. Walsh hangs up the phone. He immediately puts his suit back on. His wife asks him what's wrong. He quickly tells her the news and hurries out the house. Walsh's work to do. On December 24th at 1 p.m., Lawrence Walsh stands before a crowd of reporters in the big conference room at the Crow and Dunlevy Law firm. He is calm and voice, but angry in words. President Bush is pardoned of Casper Weinberger and other Iran Contra defendants undermines the principle that no man is above the law. It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences. The Iran Contra cover up has continued for more than six years. It has now been completed with the pardon of Casper Weinberger. Weinberger's early and deliberate decision to conceal and withhold extensive contemporaneous notes is a part of a disturbing pattern of deception and an obstruction that permeated the highest levels of the Reagan and Bush administrations. Walsh keeps his composure, but he's simmering. My office was informed only within the past two weeks. On December 11th, 1992, that President Bush had failed to produce to investigators his own highly relevant contemporaneous notes despite repeated requests for such documents. The production of these notes is still ongoing and will lead to appropriate action. It's a shot across the bow. Bush is a sitting president, and most legal experts agree a sitting president cannot be indicted, but Bush is only president for another month. After thanking the press for coming out on Christmas Eve, he finally heads home feeling awful. Walsh knows his team has put up a good, hard fight when it's starting to look like it might be for nothing. Walsh pulls into his driveway and parks his car, then heads straight for the shower. But he isn't done for the day. Around 4pm, he sets out for an evening packed with interviews. He drives to the local PBS office to tape an interview for the McNeil air news hour. As he looks out the window of his car, the wide Oklahoma sky seems dark and foreboding. He feels like it's closing in on him. He pulls into the barren parking lot and makes this way into the unattended reception area. Then he waits, alone, until finally someone comes to get him. The massive studio is empty except for a technician who quickly wires him up, gives him an earpiece, clips on a mic, and sits him in a chair in front of a lone camera. There's no monitor for Walsh to watch the live broadcast, but he can hear the show patched into his earpiece. The pardon of Casper Weinberger is the first story. Walsh listens to excerpts from a press conference Weinberger held earlier that day. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm of course extremely happy with the president's decision because I am completely innocent. I'm completely confident that I would have been acquitted in a real way. Sitting there in the chair, waiting for the unwinking eye of the camera to flickers alive. Walsh is reminded of a popular saying among criminal lawyers. If the law is against you, talk about the facts. If the facts are against you, talk about the law. If both are against you, attack the prosecutor. Weinberger does just that. I've seen the first hand this way, this unlawless and this vindictiveness of the independent council. It troubles me greatly that those who are not in a position and I've been very fortunate, those who are not in a position to hire the most able council that you can find and spend great amounts of time and effort and money to fight unwarranted charges will be forced to plead guilty to things that they have not done simply because they cannot afford and cannot run the risk of being steemed ordered by a runaway prosecutor who has unlimited time, unlimited money and is accountable to no one. It's a very strange American institution. This prosecution of me and those of many others has been a mockery of law enforcement and justice. Then a reporter in the crowd asks a pertinent question. Sir, could you put in the clearest words possible, what you think the most of Mr. Wallace was? Well, I don't really know. You'll have to ask him. The best of my knowledge, he seemed absolutely determined to get somebody. And I think that it really represents to my mind the dangers of combining this kind of investigatory responsibility with the prosecutorial responsibility. He seemed to feel that he was going to be measured and judged on the number of convictions he got that the withstood a public review. As Walsh sits in the chair in the PBS studio in Oklahoma, listening to Weinberger besmirch his character, he feels deflated. But then Weinberger says something that lights a fire under Walsh. And I have to confess that I think that's a very, very wrong way of going about it. I thought he was appointed to try to find out what had happened and I cooperated fully with him and gave him all these notes. It's another bold face lie. Weinberger did not cooperate fully and did not give Walsh all his notes. But by making this false statement on national television, he does give Lawrence Walsh new vigor. His fatigue vanishes and a jolt of energy overtakes him. In Christmassyv 1992, Lawrence Walsh decides to make his last stand. In 1992, Walsh doesn't spend Christmassyv at home with his family. Instead, he does a slew of interviews with PBS, CNN, ABC, and a host of others. When asked by reporters if he'd like to respond to Weinberger's accusations, Walsh fires back with a shot of his own. He says that Weinberger's words show he lies as well in media interviews as he does when he testified before Congress. But Weinberger's not the central focus of Walsh's iron. That role belongs to President Bush. On the various shows throughout the evening, Walsh explains that Bush pardoned Casper Weinberger for the very crime he committed himself with holding evidence. When interviewers ask him if Bush might be a target for prosecution, Walsh gives a straightforward response. Bush is a subject of our investigation now. When they ask if Bush pardon Weinberger as part of a cover up, Walsh says it's the last card in the cover up. He's played the final card. Finally, as Christmassyv winds to a close, Walsh returns home. Just as he's about to make himself a snack, his phone rings. It's one of the prosecutors from his office. He has a brief message. You hurt him. Walsh wanted to hurt Bush on his mini press tour. He wanted to drive home that Bush's actions were a gross miscarriage of justice. With his duty done, Walsh finally takes off his suit, eats a few bites, and goes to bed. Lawrence Walsh and his team had formally requested Bush's diaries on two occasions. Once in February 1987, a few months after the investigation began, and again in June 1992. But Bush held them back until December 11th, just a few weeks after the 1992 election. In December 1992 and January 93, Walsh and his team learned why Bush may have delayed handing the notes over to the investigators. The notes clearly show that Bush knew more about the Iran arms operation than he let on. But they're not incriminating. On February 4th, 1993, Walsh releases an interim report to Congress. The report lays out the evidence against Weinberger that would have been used at trial if he hadn't been pardoned by President Bush. It also paints a damning picture of Bush himself, a sitting president who abused his pardon power to cover up his candle in which he was personally and officially involved. In the same month, Walsh negotiates with Bush's lawyers to try to get Bush to submit to a deposition. But the negotiations fall apart when Bush's lawyers ask for too many restrictions. By the end of February 1993, Walsh is out of options. Bush's diaries do not prove he broke the law. And even though Walsh can prove Bush withheld them, he's not confident he will win the case. So Walsh lets it go. In his own words, I gave up. Maybe it's a lack of evidence, or maybe Walsh feels its time for the country to move on. Whatever the reason, just like that, he drops the investigation into former President Bush. On August 4th, 1993, Walsh files his final report with a special division court of appeals, the same office that hired him. He spends the next six months combating efforts by the lawyers of former members of the Reagan administration to suppress the report, including Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, and Ed Mies. On January 18th, 1994, seven years after Walsh first came to Washington as independent counsel to the Iran Contra investigation, the court releases his report to the public. Lawrence Walsh will later write that his time as independent counsel reminds him of earnest hemieways, the old man in the sea, the tale of an old fisherman who struggles for days to catch a giant Marlin. Finally victorious, the fisherman binds the Marlin to the side of his boat and heads for shore. But when sharks attack, despite the fisherman's best efforts, they strip away every last bit of flesh of the Marlin's body. When the fisherman finally reaches the shore, he collapses on the ground, exhausts their gun spent, and with no fish to show. Walsh says that his independent counsel, by sometimes felt like the old man, more often, I felt like the Marlin. Walsh says that while some have argued that fraud, obstruction, or perjury by members of the executive should be viewed as not a crime, but merely political rough housing or hardball, he disagrees. Dishonesty seems a poor substitute for thoughtful analysis and forthright advocacy. Otherwise, we are left to conclude that certain people, because of their proximity to the president, are above the law. Walsh's final report is damning to all involved, including former president's Bush and Reagan. Walsh writes that although there is no evidence that Ronald Reagan broke the law, he, knowingly participated, or at least acquiesced, in covering up the truth of Iran's contra. Walsh states that although he found no evidence that George H. W. Bush had violated the law, that contrained to Mr. Bush's statements, he was fully aware of the Ron armed sales. Walsh also writes that Bush withheld his diary notes and ultimately refused to cooperate and sit down for an interview. In a press conference on January 18th, 1994, the same day as his final report is released, a journalist asks Walsh a pointed question. If all the facts that are now known had been known in 1987, for example, do you think it would have been appropriate for Congress to consider impeachment, either President Reagan or Attorney General Mies? It certainly should have been considered whether whatever reached that point, I think, is doubtful. But the fact is Congress was deprived of that opportunity by withholding of notes by Secretary Weinberger. If I could push the impeachment question one step further, suppose that it... And also on that same day, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush repeat their previous claims to the press that they did nothing wrong. Senator Walsh's report is made public. Bob Dole tells The New York Times, Lawrence Walsh's 7 year 40 million plus witch hunt is a case study in prosecutorial abuse and excess. This final report is nothing more than a last minute effort to smear reputations. Apparently, Mr. Walsh doesn't care about his own. But Walsh will write that he sees Ron Contra as a far more important, nearly existential affair. What set Ron Contra apart from previous political scandals was the fact that a cover up engineered in the White House of one president and completed by his successor prevented the rule of law from being applied to the perpetrators of criminal activity of constitutional dimension. So which is it? Was Ron Contra much to do about nothing? Was the investigation of political witch hunt? Or was the scandal littered with crimes of constitutional proportions? The scandal that men in positions of power will fully concealed? This should never be flexible or open to interpretation. A secret plan to sell arms to Iran and divert the funds to the Contras did happen. Those actions were contrary to stated administration policy and congressional order. And those actions were kept secret in a deception that went beyond what is required for a successful covert operation. Congress was lied to. Investigators were lied to. And so was the American public. But the intentions were good. And lives were at stake, as was the viability of democracy in Central America. Oliver North passionately and for many successfully defended his activities as patriotic and necessary. But still, the facts remain. In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year was post truth, when objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. The term was coined, they believe, in a 1992 essay on the Iran Contra affair in the nation, written by Serbian American playwright Steve Taj. In it, he writes about the public's discomfort around the sorted facts revealed during the Watergate scandal, saying, we came to equate truth with bad news, and we didn't want bad news anymore, no matter how true or vital to our health as a nation. We looked to our government to protect us from the truth. He posited that these same feelings were tapped into during the Iran Contra affair. He wrote, President Reagan perceived correctly that the public really didn't want to know the truth. So he lied to us. But he didn't have to work hard at it. Taj concludes by saying, we are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drew about in their dreams. All the dictators up to now have had to work hard at suppressing the truth. We, by our actions, are saying that this is no longer necessary, that we have acquired a spiritual mechanism that can denude truth of any significance. In a very fundamental way, we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post truth world. From Wondry, this is episode five of six of Iran Contra for American scandal. On the next episode, I'll be talking to Michael Bromwich. He worked alongside Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh as Associate Counsel from the start of the Iran Contra investigation and brought all of her north to trial. We'll talk to him about whether he thinks the investigation went far enough. And how Iran Contra compares to the Russia investigation today. 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 Farlet. 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 executed produced by me Lindsey Grandfrey Airship, additional production assistance by Derek Barrett's. This episode is written by Stephen Walters, edited by Andrew Stelzer, our consultant as Malcolm Burne. The producers are Stephanie Tens, Marsha Louis, and her Nalopes for Wondering.