That other pardons furor

Let’s go back in time, back to December 1992, courtesy of the New York Times archive:

Six years after the arms-for-hostages scandal began to cast a shadow that would darken two Administrations, President Bush today granted full pardons to six former officials in Ronald Reagan’s Administration, including former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger’s private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush’s endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran.

So he lied to Congress, so what. Wipe it all away!

In one remaining facet of the inquiry, the independent prosecutor, Lawrence E. Walsh, plans to review a 1986 campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush. Mr. Walsh has characterized the President’s failure to turn over the diary until now as misconduct.

Decapitated Walsh Efforts

But in a single stroke, Mr. Bush swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh’s effort, which began in 1986. Mr. Bush’s decision was announced by the White House in a printed statement after the President left for Camp David, where he will spend the Christmas holiday.

Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President’s action, charging that ‘the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.’

Mr. Walsh directed his heaviest fire at Mr. Bush over the pardon of Mr. Weinberger, whose trial would have given the prosecutor a last chance to explore the role in the affair of senior Reagan officials, including Mr. Bush’s actions as Vice President.

But sainted Bush made that impossible. Respect for the rule of law? I guess that’s only for Democrats, eh?

Mr. Walsh hinted that Mr. Bush’s pardon of Mr. Weinberger and the President’s own role in the affair could be related. For the first time, he charged that Mr. Weinberger’s notes about the secret decision to sell arms to Iran, a central piece of evidence in the case against the former Pentagon chief, included ‘evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.’

The prosecutor charged that Mr. Weinberger’s efforts to hide his notes may have ‘forestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan’ and formed part of a pattern of ‘deception and obstruction.’ On Dec. 11, Mr. Walsh said he discovered ‘misconduct’ in Mr. Bush’s failure to turn over what the prosecutor said were the President’s own ‘highly relevant contemporaneous notes, despite repeated requests for such documents.’

The notes, in the form of a campaign diary that Mr. Bush compiled after the elections in November 1986, are in the process of being turned over to Mr. Walsh, who said, ‘In light of President Bush’s own misconduct, we are gravely concerned about his decision to pardon others who lied to Congress and obstructed official investigations.’

Filthy, isn’t it. We hear a lot about Watergate in discussions of the Russia investigation, but Iran-Contra not so much. Maybe that will change.

Isn’t it interesting how it’s always Republicans? Watergate, Iran-Contra, Russia-WikiLeaks-sanctions?

In an interview on the ‘McNeil-Lehrer Newshour’ tonight, Mr. Walsh said for the first time that Mr. Bush was a subject of his investigation. The term ‘subject,’ as it has been used by Mr. Walsh’s prosecutors, is broadly defined as someone involved in events under scrutiny, but who falls short of being a target, or a person likely to be charged with a crime. In the inquiry into the entire Iran-contra affair, a number of Government officials have been identified as subjects who were never charged with wrongdoing.

Trump is a subject of the Mueller investigation.

The prosecutor said he would take appropriate action in Mr. Bush’s case, implying he might contemplate future legal action against the President for withholding relevant documents. But prosecutors have said in the past that charging a President or former President with wrongdoing would be highly unlikely without overwhelming evidence of a serious crime.

C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel, said today that Mr. Bush had voluntarily supplied the disputed material to Mr. Walsh, asserting that the notes contained no new information about the affair. Mr. Gray said Mr. Bush wanted make the notes public, but did not say when.

President-elect Bill Clinton, at a news conference in Little Rock, Ark., to announce his remaining Cabinet selections, said he wanted to learn more about the pardons, adding, ‘I am concerned by any action that sends a signal that if you work for the Government, you’re beyond the law, or that not telling the truth to Congress under oath is somehow less serious than not telling the truth to some other body under oath.’

But then along came the blue dress.

But not since President Gerald R. Ford granted clemency to former President Richard M. Nixon for possible crimes in Watergate has a Presidential pardon so pointedly raised the issue of whether the President was trying to shield officials for political purposes. Mr. Walsh invoked Watergate tonight in an interview on the ABC News program ‘Nightline,’ likening today’s pardons to President Richard M. Nixon’s dismissal of the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, in 1973. Mr. Walsh said Mr. Bush had ‘succeeded in a sort of Saturday Night Massacre.’

Democratic lawmakers assailed the decision. Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine, the Democratic leader, called the action a mistake. ‘It is not as the President stated today a matter of criminalizing policy differences,’ he said. ‘If members of the executive branch lie to the Congress, obstruct justice and otherwise break the law, how can policy differences be fairly and legally resolved in a democracy.’

The main supporters of the pardon were Vice President Quayle, the Senate Republican leader, Bob Dole, and Mr. Gray, one senior Administration official said today. The decision, discussed in private, seemed to coalesce in the last three weeks although Mr. Bush was said to believe that Mr. Weinberger had been unfairly charged ever since the former Reagan Cabinet officer was first indicted in June.

Throughout the deliberations, Mr. Bush consulted with Attorney General William P. Barr and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, who had sat on a Presidential review panel that examined the affair in early 1987.

*cough*

News outlets are saying Barr is Trump’s current favorite for Attorney General.

Mull on that.

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