Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R--Kan.), deploring an election-eve indictment that implied President Bush had lied about his knowledge of Iran-Contra events, called Sunday for an investigation of Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh and urged Bush to pardon former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and all those convicted for their roles in the scandal.
Dole, reflecting views expressed last week by Vice President Dan Quayle and some Bush campaign aides, said that a belated charge by Walsh against Weinberger four days before the election seemed politically motivated. It badly damaged Bush as he was gaining on President-elect Bill Clinton the last weekend of the campaign, Dole said.
Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Dole said that James J. Brosnahan, a San Francisco Democratic attorney appointed by Walsh to prosecute Weinberger, had contributed $500 to Clinton’s campaign and that his law firm had given $20,000.
As to the second indictment of Weinberger on Oct. 30, “we ought to investigate and determine whether or not politics played any part,” Dole said.
Senate Republican Whip Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” called the latest Iran-Contra charge “one of the cheapest shots of the whole campaign.” But he said that Bush should be “very, very careful” about granting any pardons.
Some White House aides are understood to have discussed the possibility of pardoning Weinberger before his trial but Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater has said that he knew nothing about it and no formal request has been made.
Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D--Me.), speaking on CBS, belittled Dole’s accusations and said that any pardons by Bush would be “an abuse of power.” Furthermore, such an action would make it appear that Bush “intended to prevent any further exploration of his participation” in the arms scandal, he said.
Mitchell adopted an explanation given by Walsh’s office for the belated indictment--that the new charge, replacing one dismissed by a federal judge, had to be filed before the end of October to keep Weinberger’s trial from being postponed beyond its Jan. 5 starting date.
Mitchell also noted that Walsh is “a lifelong Republican,” having been appointed as a federal judge by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and later serving as a Justice Department official in the Eisenhower Administration.
Brosnahan could not be reached for comment Sunday at his San Francisco office or home. But Walsh said that Brosnahan’s contributions to the Clinton campaign before Walsh hired him are, “it seems to me, irrelevant.”
Weinberger, who headed the Defense Department under former President Ronald Reagan, has been charged with perjury on grounds that he misled congressional officials investigating the Reagan Administration’s secret arms sales to Iran in 1986. The newest charges against him included disclosure of his notes of a Jan. 7, 1986, White House meeting in which he wrote that then-Vice President Bush favored the arms-for-hostages deal.
Bush long has denied that he took such a position, saying he was “out of the loop” on such discussions.
Dole and Simpson said there appeared to be a connection between Walsh’s action and the Clinton campaign because a Clinton press release calling attention to Bush’s involvement in the Weinberger indictment was dated Oct. 29, a day before the charge became public. However, Clinton spokesman George Stephanopolous has said that the release was inadvertently misdated, that the information was obtained from a wire-service story of the indictment and that the release was not distributed until Oct. 30.
Walsh said that no one outside his office knew about the indictment beforehand except for an interagency panel of intelligence experts who must review matters involving national security-related documents.
Dole said he would like to see an investigation of Walsh by either the Justice Department or by an independent counsel, particularly because Walsh has spent about $40 million over the six years of his tenure.
In all, Walsh has obtained 10 convictions, but two have been overturned on appeal--those of former White House aide Oliver L. North and former White House National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter.
Of the remaining convictions, all but one resulted from negotiated plea agreements. Only one defendant has gone to jail and that was on income tax charges related to weapons sales. Walsh now is retrying former CIA official Clair E. George on perjury charges, following a hung jury in George’s original trial last August.