Fired North Got Call From Bush, Secord Testifies
Vice President George Bush telephoned White House aide Oliver L. North after North was fired last year to offer his support, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord told Congress Wednesday.
“It was . . . (a) laudatory call--sad--a very short call,” Secord said.
Bush told North that he admired the work he had done, another source said, and told the fired aide: “Sorry to see it end this way.” A spokeswoman for Bush, Gayle Fisher, confirmed the account.
North was fired by President Reagan last Nov. 25 after investigators discovered that he had secretly diverted profits from the Reagan Administration’s Iranian arms sales to aid Nicaragua’s contra rebels.
Reagan himself also telephoned North to offer his support and later called the Marine lieutenant colonel “a national hero.”
Stands at Attention
Secord, who was with North when both calls came, said he realized that the President was on the line when North answered the telephone and stood at attention like “a good Marine.”
Secord told the House and Senate committees investigating the Iran- contra scandal that Bush met last August with a former CIA officer who had helped set up a secret contra air base in El Salvador, suggesting that the vice president was aware of the secret contra airlift.
But Bush contested that account, saying through Fisher that he did not meet with former CIA officer Felix Rodriguez. Instead, he said, Rodriguez met with two of his top aides, Donald Gregg and Sam Watson.
“Gen. Secord is mistaken,” she said. “The vice president did not meet with Felix Rodriguez in August.”
Rodriguez came to Washington to complain that Secord’s airlift operation was badly managed and was wasting money, Secord and other sources said.
Backed by Bush’s Office
Rodriguez was a friend and political supporter of Bush who first went to El Salvador with a recommendation from Bush’s office to help in counterguerrilla operations there.
Bush, who is an unannounced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has been struggling to free himself from charges that he was more deeply enmeshed in the Iran-contra secret operation than he has admitted.