North Admits Lies to Congress on Contra Aid
Saying he felt like “a pawn in a chess game,” Oliver L. North conceded today that he lied to Congress after his boss sent him against his will to a session where he denied providing assistance to the Contras.
“Did you tell the truth at that meeting on Aug. 6, 1986?” defense lawyer Brendan Sullivan asked North during his second day of testimony at his criminal trial.
“No,” North said. “I . . . went into the meeting not believing it would be illegal not to tell Congress the truth. And that’s why I didn’t think the meeting would be a good idea.”
The session with the House Intelligence Committee was in the White House Situation Room.
The former White House aide said then-National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter told him, “You go to the meeting with them, it’s informal.”
“I felt like a pawn in a chess game being played by giants,” North said.
‘More Difficult for Everybody’
North said he had wanted the Reagan White House to invoke executive privilege against a looming congressional inquiry of secret Contra aid in 1986, but was brushed aside by Poindexter. The meeting with the House panel succeeded in fending off that inquiry.
“You start howling about executive privilege, and it’s just going to make it more difficult for everybody,” North quoted Poindexter as telling him before the meeting.
North said Poindexter was worried that a $100-million Contra aid package that was about to be approved by Congress would be imperiled if the Administration refused to respond.
Invoking executive privilege would have allowed North to refuse to respond to questions.
North is accused of obstructing Congress by telling the panel that he didn’t give military advice to the Contras and didn’t raise funds for the rebels.