A federal judge today ordered former President Ronald Reagan to give videotaped testimony in the Iran-Contra trial of his one-time national security adviser, John M. Poindexter.
U.S. District Court Judge Harold Greene gave Reagan and President Bush until Friday to invoke executive privilege as part of any attempt to avoid testifying.
"Former President Ronald Reagan is claimed by Admiral Poindexter to have direct and important knowledge that will help to exonerate him from the criminal charges lodged against him," Greene said in a 54-page decision. "In view of the prior professional relationship between the two men, . . . that claim cannot be dismissed as fanciful or frivolous," said the judge.
He said the process of giving testimony by way of videotape would meet the "obligation" to protect the rights of the former President and the privileges of the presidency. Greene said he would consult with all sides to set a place and date for the testimony prior to the start of the trial, set for Feb. 20.
A videotape deposition would allow the evidence to be taken with recesses "as necessary" and for consultations to consider invoking executive privilege "or the handling of sensitive defense information."
Bush, as the incumbent President, is involved because if Reagan was forced to testify it would have implications for future Presidents and their right to deliberate in private.