Some Advising Bush to Pardon Weinberger, Others in Iran-Contra
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Some senior Republicans and White House aides are advising President Bush to pardon former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and other Iran-Contra defendants before he leaves office, according to a published report.
No formal recommendation has been made to the president, but the idea has been discussed informally by some of his aides, The Washington Post said in Saturday editions, quoting unidentified GOP and White House sources.
Questioned by The Associated Press, Robert Bennett, one of Weinberger’s lawyers, refused to comment on whether he has talked to White House officials about the possibility of a presidential pardon.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said he had heard no discussion of a pardon, the Post said.
On Oct. 30, four days before the presidential election, Weinberger was charged in a new grand jury indictment that contradicted Bush’s claim that he never knew that arms were being traded for hostages in the Iran-Contra affair or that two Cabinet members were opposed to the deal.
The indictment was based on Weinberger’s handwritten notes of a Jan. 7, 1986, meeting in which President Reagan, then-Vice President Bush, Cabinet members and presidential aides discussed a straight swap of arms for American hostages held in Lebanon.
Bush is said to believe that Weinberger is ″an innocent victim of (Iran- Contra prosecutor Lawrence) Walsh’s drive to get (Bush) and that it is a travesty overall,″ the Post quoted an unidentified associate of the president as saying.
The newspaper said some senior aides described Bush as bitter about the re- indictment of Weinberger just four days before the election and said he believes the timing eliminated any chance he might have had of catching Democrat Bill Clinton.
The Post quoted a source close to Walsh as saying that the prosecutor has heard the pardon rumors but ″can’t do anything about them.″
A presidential pardon, the newspaper said, would not prevent Walsh from filing a report on the findings of his six-year, $33 million investigation into the worst scandal of the Reagan administration.
″Bush has never been a target″ of Walsh’s inquiry, one source told the Post, and the prosecutor agreed in August to postpone questing the president in the final phase of the Iran-Contra investigation until after the election.
If Bush did pardon Weinberger, questions would be raised about what he should do about other pending cases and about the seven other Iran-Contra figures who have pleaded guilty to Walsh’s charges.
Weinberger’s trial on five counts of perjury to Congress and false statements to prosecutors is scheduled to begin Jan. 5.