Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why Ronald Reagan didn't pardon Oliver North, Robert MacFarlane, & John Poindexter

Scooter Libby

In light of the President Bush II pardon of Scooter Libby, the number two man in VP Dick Cheney's office, for perjury, the following article about Ronald Reagan's refusal to pardon Oliver North and his co-conspirataors is interesting. Bush suffers in comparison to Reagan.

Walter Pincus wrote in the Washington Post on July 16, 2007:

"In his diary entry for Dec. 6, 1988, President Ronald Reagan wrote, "I lean very much toward a pardon" for Robert "Bud" McFarlane, his former national security adviser who had pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts for misleading Congress about the Iran-contra affair.

""He awaits sentence. . . . I don't think he deliberately lied," Reagan recorded, adding that McFarlane's wife had written him "on her own asking for a pardon for Bud."

"The issue had come up that morning, according to the diary, when Reagan's White House counsel, A.B. Culvahouse, began a 10 a.m. meeting talking about pardons -- not only for McFarlane but also for Oliver North and John Poindexter, the two main actors in the arms-for-hostages dealings.

"The matter reemerged on Dec. 22, less than a month before Reagan would leave office. The president wrote that he had sent Culvahouse "letters from Ollie North's lawyers asking me to pardon Ollie." Next, he wrote that at 10:30 a.m. on the same day, Attorney General Richard Thornburgh "came in with a well reasoned argument against pardons for North & Poindexter," who at that point were awaiting trial.

"On Jan. 10, 1989, Reagan noted, "The matter of a pardon for North is now being looked at as -- the judge should drop the charges." Part of Reagan's interest in the North trial is reflected in the next day's entry: "[T]he Justice Dept. will file a motion today to quash the subpoenas for Geo. [Secretary of State George P.Shultz] & me in the North case."

"On Jan. 16, Reagan recorded that he had "a 20 min. session on things hanging fire -- like pardons for several people." The only name Reagan mentioned was that of Michael K. Deaver, his former deputy chief of staff who had been convicted of not telling the truth to a congressional committee. Reagan noted that a Deaver relative had called a Justice Department official "about a pardon for Mike," but "Mike has passed the word he wouldn't accept a pardon."

"On Reagan's last full day in office, Jan. 19, he wrote that Thornburgh came "to see me about pardons." Reagan went on: "He doesn't believe I should pardon . . . North, Poindexter or McFarlane. I'm afraid he's right."

"In his autobiography, "An American Life," Reagan disclosed that "despite appeals from their supporters and despite my own sympathies," he had decided against pardoning the three. "I still felt the law had to be allowed to take its course," he wrote. It was Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush, who would pardon McFarlane on Dec. 24, 1992. North's and Poindexter's convictions had been previously reversed.

"Now, after President George W. Bush has commuted the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, it would be interesting to know what roles Bush's attorney general and White House counsel played in the decision...


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