Robertson Slams Iran-Contra Hearings, Biden
WASHINGTON (AP) _ On the verge of entering the 1988 Republican presidential race, the Rev. Pat Robertson condemned Congress’ investigation of the Iran-Contra affair as an unconstitutional ″trial and public humiliation″ of Oliver North and others.
At a National Press Club luncheon Friday, the television evangelist also applauded President Reagan’s choice of Robert Bork for the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the conservative jurist will help bring an end to legalized abortion.
″If Bork gets in, Roe vs. Wade is out,″ Robertson said.
Roe vs. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision that held government cannot ban abortions in the first two trimesters of a pregnancy. Robertson said Bork will line up with other conservative justices to overturn that decision.
And he said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden of Delaware is damaging himself by opposing Bork and by ″flip-flopping four times on Bork.″
″I think this is going to destroy his presidential chances,″ said the Republican hopeful.
On his candidacy, Robertson has said he wants three million signatures on petitions of support before entering. On Friday, he said he would have ″three million indications of support″ by the end of next month. But he left little doubt he is running.
″I’m fully expecting to be a declared candidate by the middle of September,″ Robertson said. ″I intend to work as hard as any candidate out there.″
Robertson also blasted the ongoing joint congressional hearings looking into the Reagan administration’s arms sales to Iran and diversion of money to Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
″Congress subjected the victims, if you will, to the arbitrary punishment of a trial and public humiliation.... The lectures, the harangues, and the public chastisement″ of fired National Security Council aide North and former national security adviser Adm. John Poindexter before national television audiences is ″equal to a written bill brought against them,″ Robertson said.
The Yale Law School graduate often says Supreme Court decisions are not the law of the land, but he cited a 1946 Supreme Court decision, U.S. vs. Lovett, to support his argument.
″By this criteria, the present Iran-Contra hearings ... are clearly unconstitutional bills of attainder,″ he said. ″They serve no valid legislative purpose. They have trampled on the constitutional rights of those brought before them. They are a usurpation of the judicial function of the United States.″
″A bill of attainder″ is defined by the court as a legislative act that inflicts punishment without a judicial trial.
″The machinery of the committee is oppressive and lacking in the customary judicial safeguards,″ Robertson went on. ″Clearly the hearings have not been impartial, but were the machinery of a rival political party seeking to vitiate another party which now occupies the executive branch of government.
″It takes little sophistication to realize that the motive for the Iran- Contra hearings was an attempt to weaken a popular Republican president and to provide support for a potential impeachment against him.... If we allow the machinery of government to become the tools of oppressive partisanship, then we all will be the losers,″ he concluded.
In the 1946 case cited by Robertson, Congress refused to appropriate money for three federal employees, claiming that they were ″crackpot, radical bureaucrats″ who are affiliated with ″communist front organizations.″
The decision said legislative acts that punish named individuals without a trial are bills of attainder.
″By accusing members of the National Security Council, Congress is actually violating the very Constitution it is sworn to uphold,″ Robertson said.
On the issue of a pardon for North and Poindexter, Robertson said it is too early.
″I can’t see pardoning somebody for an unnamed offense. It leaves them forever branded as lawbreakers without even having a charge brought against them that they are lawbreakers,″ he said.
Robertson repeated his stand that North is an American hero, even if he doesn’t agree with lying to Congress and shredding documents - actions North has admitted doing.