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It's March 21st, 1990, in a district courtroom in Washington, D.C., Judge Harold Greene sits at the bench from his elevated position. He overlooks the packed audience of spectators to the left of Judge Green, says a panel of 12 jurors, five men, seven women since John Poindexter trial began in early March. These jurors have listened to hours of testimony. They've sacrificed weeks of their time in order to perform their civic duty. But today is a special day.
Today, the jurors are going to hear testimony from a very important person, former President Ronald Reagan. The bailiff opens a door at the back of the courtroom and we'll several television sets the front of the jury box. One month earlier, Reagan gave a taped deposition in a federal courthouse in Los Angeles, California. Now, that tape will be played before the jury. Judge Green makes a brief statement, he reminds the jury that Ronald Reagan is a witness like any other and that he should not be given special consideration.
After his gentle admonishment, Judge Green nods to the bailiff. He turned to lights and presses play.
The witness, whom we will hear this morning, is the former president of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Would you call the witness to the defense trials? Ronald Reagan, Mr.. President, see, you say what you just would administer the oath. Do you solemnly swear testimony about driving the cars now before this court to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I do this by your last name for Ronald Reagan, Ariah Grande.
Excuse me. Reference for the former president is palpable as the clerk adjusts Reagan's microphone and ensures that he's comfortable, the judge expresses his appreciation for Reagan's testimony before he begins. Then Poindexter as attorney introduces himself and begins.
But let me just say that basically, and I do have a lot of documents here to refresh your recollection, but I think it's going to be necessary to do that. There was a statement by you to the to the public televised statement on November 30th, talking just about the missile shipments to Iran. And then there was a press conference six days later on November 19th between the November 13 and the November 19th addresses that you made to the to the nation.
Did you receive information from Abu Poindexter that enabled you to make those presentations to the public?
I, I don't recall. Reagan seems to be suffering from what Ollie North once called the great plague of amnesia. Would you have met with anybody during that time frame in order to make those presentations?
I'm not denying and whether I met with others, it's just that I don't recall.
Right, because it was at that same press conference. In fact, that said, Admiral Poindexter pointed out at the end of the press conference that there was certain information that was no longer protected having to do with Israel. Do you recall that at all? No, I don't. I asked you before, and I'm not going to belabor it, I just wonder if you recall the day before that November 12th, you attended a meeting with congressional leaders and Admiral Poindexter was with you at that meeting when you met with the congressman, was he not?
That I don't recall at all, but that would be the kind of a meeting that the national security adviser would attend with you, I would guess, and possibly other cabinet members or staff members.
But I don't recall in total, the jurors listen to eight hours of testimony from the former president over the course of his two day interview. Reagan says he does not recall or does not remember 88 times. It's not hard to imagine the members of the jury are asking themselves the same question Lawrence Walsh had been asking since he began his investigation three years ago. Is Reagan telling the truth? Is it possible that he really doesn't remember any of the details surrounding Iran-Contra?
These questions invariably force Walsh to consider another, even more troubling possibility that maybe Reagan's not lying. Maybe his mind is starting to slip away. Maybe it's been gone for some time. American scandal is sponsored by ancestry. Maybe you've heard that you have your father's eyes or your mom's sense of humor or you laugh like Uncle George or love words like your grandmother. Those resemblances aren't limited to family. Inside you in every one of your cells is a small piece of the history of humanity, a story that goes back generations that proves you and me and everyone on the planet are related.
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From wandering, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scout. In the last episode, independent counsel Lawrence Walsh arrived in Washington and launched his investigation into the Iran Contra affair. Walsh has a long list of potential targets for prosecution. National Security Council staffer Ollie North was first on his list. Reagan's former national security adviser, John Poindexter, his second. On April 7th, 1990, after six days of deliberation, a jury finds Poindexter guilty on five counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and lying to Congress.
He's sentenced to six months in jail. It's a decided victory, but the feeling of triumph is short lived. In July 1990, three months after Poindexter trial, a federal court overturns Ali Norths conviction on appeal from the beginning. Walsh was worried that Ali Norths immunized testimony before Congress would taint his investigation and anyone he brought to trial. And he was right. Then, shortly after his conviction, Poindexter filed for an appeal as well as an appeal. Walsh feels Poindexter will likely win for the same reasons.
And he's right again 15 months after he is found guilty. Poindexter, whose conviction is overturned. Walsh is facing other issues, as well as the total price tag for his investigation rapidly approaches 25 million dollars. Criticism on Capitol Hill begins to swell. Many Republicans in Congress call for the investigation to be shut down. Others attacked Walsh personally, suggesting his investigation is politically motivated.
Walsh is at a crossroads, does he bend to pressure and wrap up the investigation or does he follow the facts wherever they lead? Walsh has dedicated his life to the law. He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution as independent counsel. He has a duty to find out the truth. And so he's not going to stop until the job is done. By February 1990, he has secured guilty pleas from six people in the White House, including Bud McFarlane, Ollie North and John Poindexter, as Walsh slowly works his way up the ladder of Reagan's administration.
His eyes are firmly fixed on two men at the top, former President Ronald Reagan and current President George H.W. Bush. This is Episode five, The Inner Circle.
It's fall 1990, six months after the trial, John Poindexter, Lawrence Walsh sits at his desk at a local FBI office in Oklahoma City, poring over memos and documents related to the Iran-Contra investigation. He has given up his room at the Watergate Hotel to spare the government the cost of putting him up. These days, he spends most of his time working remotely today while she's distracted. His eyes drift over to the phone on his desk. He knows it's only a matter of time before it rings.
A few weeks back, Walsh issued a grand jury subpoena for Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan's former secretary of defense. Weinberger is a private citizen now the publisher for the illustrious Forbes magazine. Four days, Weinberger has been dodging Walsh's agents. But earlier today, as he tried to exit through the service entrance behind his Manhattan office, the agents finally caught up with him and handed him a subpoena.
Hello, Lawrence Walsh, Lawrence, it's Bill Rodgers, I suppose you know why I'm calling Caspar Weinberger? Yeah, I'm representing his interest in this matter. Are you investigating him?
We just want to talk to him, Bill.
He opposed the arms sales consistently from the very beginning. We're not planning to pursue charges at this time. We just want to talk, that's all. Honestly, we could use his help. We think his notes might provide valuable insight.
Mr. Weinberger already turned over his notes to the congressional committees. It's all been deposited in the Library of Congress. Yeah. Can you ask him if he has any other notes that might be relevant? Anything he hasn't turned over? Yeah, I can do that. Thank you. All right. I'll be in touch.
Walsh doesn't say it on the phone, but he knows Weinberger did not turn over all of his notes. He knows this because Weinberger's old rival, Secretary of State George Shultz, said so. Two months ago, a member of Walter's team found a memo dictated to Schultz's assistant. The memo stated that Weinberger took detailed notes but that he was never forced to cough them up. A few days after the call, Weinberger's attorney calls again. Weinberger is willing to sit down for an interview.
On October 10th, 1990, the Office of the Independent Counsel in Washington, D.C., members of Walsh's staff questioned Weinberger. FBI agent Mike Foster transcribes the interview. Normally verbatim notes of preliminary interviews aren't standard procedure. Witnesses are usually given a chance to refresh their memories before officially going on the record. But this time, Walsh orders his team to take detailed notes because Walsh suspects the Caspar Weinberger is not going to tell them the truth. Withholding evidence is against the law, so is making false statements to the office of the Independent Counsel.
Nevertheless, Walsh gives Weinberger every chance to come clean before the meeting even starts. Walsh notifies Weinberger's attorney that they have evidence suggesting Weinberger did not turn over all of his notes. He even lets Weinberger read the transcript from a prior interview in which he discusses his notetaking habit.
And yet, in spite of all of this in front of Walsh's team of FBI agents and prosecutors, Weinberger says he took some notes during his first year at the Department of Defense but quickly discontinued the practice. He says he never took notes in meetings with the president or his cabinet when the Iran arms deal was discussed. He also says that whatever notes he did take were already turned over. He insists he did not withhold anything relevant from Congress or from the Office of the Independent Counsel.
It's all lies, and in less than a year, Walsh will be able to prove it. In November 1991, a member of Walsh's team digs through Weinberger's papers in the Library of Congress. He finds a trove of previously undisclosed notes that reveal the truth. Weinberger did not discontinue the practice of taking notes. He took detailed notes on an almost daily basis, and the content of his notes are explosive. The notes show Weinberger lied about his involvement in the arms for hostages operation.
He lied to Congress about his activities and he lied to conceal his notes, first from Congress, then from Walsh and his team at the office of the Independent Counsel. For Walsh, the question is, why did he lie, did Weinberger lie to protect his own public image, maybe to protect the president or both? The notes show something else to Weinberger didn't just write about the arms for hostages operation. After the Iran armed story broke in the press, Weinberger all but documented the cover up in his notes, notes he had withheld from Congress, notes that might have led to Reagan's impeachment for the first time.
Lawrence Walsh has a nearly complete picture of the Reagan administration's attempt to conceal their actions and protect the president.
In April 1992, Walsh and his team meet at the Office of the Independent Counsel to discuss how to deal with Weinberger. In Walsh's opinion, Weinberger should be charged with participating in a continuing cover up of Ronald Reagan's illegal actions and a massive obstruction of Iran-Contra. In Walsh's view, Weinberger's misconduct as part of a broader pattern of obstruction by the Reagan administration that began in November 1986. The obstruction included withholding information from Congress, blocking Walsh's work by overclassifying documents, lying to Congress, lying to the grand jury and lying to Walter's staff.
Walsch The issue of concealment lies at the heart of his investigation concealment of the truth to protect the president. But it would be impossible for Walsh to prosecute every government official who concealed notes in relation to Iran-Contra. There are far too many, and each of those individual cases would take months. Patience for Walsh's investigation and Congress and with the American people is already growing thin. So Walsh decides to make an example of Caspar Weinberger, the highest ranking of all the offenders.
Two months later, in June 1992, Weinberger is indicted and charged with five felonies, one count of obstructing a congressional investigation, two counts of making false statements and two charges of perjury. Shortly after the indictment, Walsh subpoenas former President Ronald Reagan as a witness. For the first time, Reagan will be forced to sit down with Lawrence Walsh face to face. A month after Weinberger's indictment, Lawrence Walsh flies to California to personally take Reagan's deposition, they meet in Reagan's office on the Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles.
Reagan is polite and cordial. He even offers Walsh a snack, licorice, jelly beans, his favorite treat. But when Walsh starts to question Reagan on the details of Iran-Contra, the former president's recollection is even stronger than it was during Poindexter trial. He's not even been out of office for four years, but he doesn't remember basic details about his presidency. Walsh has to remind him of simple, innocuous details, like the fact that his former national security adviser, John Poindexter, resigned during a break.
Reagan takes Walsch to the window of his office.
He happily points out the sights of the city. Walsh is captivated by his charm and his kindness. Reagan is a superstar, famous actor and a beloved president. Walsh can also see that Reagan's star is fading.
You can see that the president is disabled. You can also see how it'd be hard for other people to notice because Reagan, even in his deteriorated state, is extremely appealing before Walsh leaves the meeting.
He tells Reagan's lawyer what must have already seemed obvious. Reagan is not fit to stand trial in his own defense. Walsh will not be bringing charges against him, but that does not mean Walsh intends to back off his former secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger. On July 29th, 1992, an article appears in the Baltimore Sun reporting Republicans in Congress have demanded a full accounting of the money. Lawrence Walsh has spent on the investigation. Leading the charge is a senator from Kansas named Bob Dole.
Dole has been a vocal critic of Walsh throughout the investigation. Now he's demanding Walsh leave Iran Contra where it belongs in the history books.
Shortly after The Sun article, Reuters reports that Walsh, whose investigation cost more than 32 million dollars and for the money spent, Walsh has very little to show for it six years after the investigation began. The reporter writes, The last of the hostages have been freed. Democratic elections have been held in Nicaragua, and the threat of world communist domination seems remote. So why is Walsh driven to continue? Republicans are starting to suspect that Lawrence Walsh's investigation has been politicized, infected by partisan politics.
Some people call it a witch hunt. Walsh isn't the only one under fire.
As George H.W. Bush gears up for re-election in 1992, it seems the political winds are blowing in a new direction. In 1988, he was elected to fulfill the promise of the Reagan presidency. But now America seems ready for a change. And that change comes in the form of charismatic governor from Arkansas named Bill Clinton.
It's October 25th, 1992. Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton speaks to a crowd of supporters gathered for an outdoor rally at a Michigan high school. Governor Clinton criticizes Bush's economic policies, saying those policies resulted in lost jobs in the U.S. and the exploitation of workers in Central America. And then he goes beyond disparaging policy by implying Bush's White House is riddled with corruption.
It is so strange to look at what is going on in Washington today and put it against the real problems of real people. It's impossible to figure we've got a president who came here to Michigan today one more time saying we ought to trust him with four more years.
And I look at the government over which he presides. I mean, can you believe it? He's here talking about law enforcement. And in Washington, the FBI and the Justice Department are so busy investigating each other, they don't have any time for crooks anymore.
But in late October 1992, Bill Clinton is not Bush's only problem. Bush is about to get an unwelcome surprise from independent counsel Lawrence Walsh.
On October 30th, Lawrence Walsh arrives home after a long day at work. His wife says to him, You were all over the news. Today, Walsh is confused. He asks her what news? We didn't do anything newsworthy today, but Walsh's office did do something that day. In his mind, it wasn't a big deal. His office filed what's called a superseding indictment, an adjustment to the charges against Caspar Weinberger. But the indictment itself is not what was newsworthy.
It was what the indictment contained information that George H.W. Bush had not been entirely truthful with the American people even more. It's the fact that it was filed just days before the election. Since the Iran arms deal went public, George Bush claimed he did not support the sale of arms for hostages. The superseding indictment contained information to the contrary, though the decision to include that information was not made by Walsh. It was made by senior members of his staff.
Walsh will later claim that he did not order his staff to include the Bush information in the superseding indictment. He claims that he was not aware of it. He also says it was not a politically motivated decision by him or anyone else. But Walsh does feel bad. He likes Bush, and he never meant to treat him unfairly, especially with an election just a few days away sitting at home on October 30th. Walsh almost picks up the phone to call President Bush and explain, but he decides against it in the final days of the 1992 election.
The Clinton campaign uses the information in the Weinberger indictment to call Bush a liar. In response, Bush calls Walsh's investigation something to a big witch hunt. On November 3rd, 1992, Bill Clinton is elected the forty second president of the United States. Republican Senator Bob Dole is certain Lawrence Walsh is to blame. Six days after the election on November 9th, Dole goes on CBS's Face the Nation with a list of demands. He calls for an end to the Iran-Contra investigation and the launch of a new investigation to determine whether or not politics played any part in the indictment of Caspar Weinberger.
He makes more pointed claims as well. Dole says the grand jury charge against Mr. Weinberger was obtained by a Walsch aide who contributed 500 dollars to the campaign of President elect Bill Clinton. He says the aide also worked for a law firm that contributed 20000 dollars to the Clinton campaign. And then Dole takes it one step further. He says that President Bush should pardon everyone convicted by the office of the Independent Counsel.
Walsh feels Bob Dole has crossed a line. Walsh is a lifelong Republican. He was a supporter of Ronald Reagan. And throughout the entire Iran-Contra affair, Walsh resisted speaking out publicly. He felt saying too much about his work would be improper. Walsh has a job to do, and that job has nothing to do with partisan politics. So two days after Dole's Face the Nation interview, Walsh penned a letter that speaks volumes. He writes, I can recall no case where a Senate leader has so directly intruded himself in a pending lawsuit.
Dole is basing his accusation on slim grounds.
He says there's no truth to Mr. Dole's suggestions. Walsh says his aide, the one being accused of partisanship, is a courageous lawyer who is willing to expose himself to unpopularity in order to carry out his responsibility.
Walsh's message is clear.
Dole is the only one politicizing the Iran-Contra investigation. But if Republicans feel Walsh is not being honest. Many Americans feel the same way about former President Bush. They made their feelings known at the ballot box by voting him out of office. But the American people don't know the half of it. In November 1992, Bush has a secret secret he'd rather not see the light of day, a secret Lawrence Walsh is about to uncover. American scandal is sponsored by ZIP recruiter, hiring is like finding a needle in a haystack, and even if there were hundreds of needles in there, it's too much.
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The Kaisers web is available now. Wherever audio books are sold, start listening. On December 11th, 1992, an assistant on President Bush's staff gives Walsh and his team of lawyers incendiary information. George H.W. Bush kept a diary. He started the diary six years earlier in November 1986, around the same time the Iran-Contra scandal exploded. Bush dictated observations and thoughts to his secretary at the end of every workday. He chronicled his work as vice president for two years from early November eighty six, all the way through his 88 presidential campaign.
And he kept this diary a secret from nearly everyone in September of 1992, two months before the election. Lawrence Walsh's office requested materials from President Bush. Bush says he told his staff to cooperate with request. And Bush's staff did turn over a lot of documents, but they didn't turn over the diary. This wasn't the first time President Bush obfuscated when it came to the subject of diaries in the trial of John Poindexter two and a half years before Bush lost his bid for re-election, Poindexter.
Lawyers asked for President Reagan to release his private diaries, diaries Reagan kept during the Iran-Contra affair with potentially incriminating information. In response, Reagan quickly invoked one of the many perks of his former job executive privilege. Poindexter lawyers pushed back hard. They claimed Reagan knew of and approved all of Poindexter his activities. And to prove it, they wanted to look in Reagan's diaries before he was forced to comply. President Bush stepped in and supported the former president's assertion of executive privilege, specifically on the issue of the diaries.
At the time, Bush's intentions seemed entirely above board, just the president looking out for his friend and former boss, not to mention the office of the presidency. But in December 1992, Lawrence Walsh discovers that Bush's motivation for intervening on Reagan's behalf was perhaps more self-interested. On December 11th, 1990, to Bush's assistant finally turns over some of Bush's diary entries. And it shows Bush knew more about the aspects of the Iran-Contra affair than he had previously let on.
He knew about the arms sales to Iran, and he knew about the quid pro quo dealings with countries that pledged to support the Contras from Walsh's perspective. The facts clearly show that Bush did not want the American people to see his diary prior to the 1992 election, and he definitely did not want his notes to make their way to the office of the Independent Counsel. In Walsh's mind, there's no doubt Bush withheld evidence. The question now is, will he let President Bush off the hook or will he pursue prosecution?
It's Christmas Eve, 1992, two weeks after Walsh receives Bush's diary and less than two weeks before the trial of Caspar Weinberger is set to begin. Walsh attends an event at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, the annual holiday breakfasts of Walsh's former law firm, Crowe and Donlevy at the breakfast. Walsh sits next to the guest of honor, Oklahoma's chief justice Marian Opala, as the two men finish their coffee. Apollo brings up the elephant in the room, Iran-Contra.
For Lawrence Walsh, it's been a long road, and his investigation into Iran-Contra is nearly complete. The priority for Walsh in December 1992 is the prosecution of Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. The politicians to Walsh, do you think Bush will pardon Weinberger? Oh, I certainly hope not. If I was a betting man, I'd bet against it. Why is that? Bush has made some mistakes, but deep down, I think integrity still matters to him.
I just don't see him doing this. Not 10 days away from Weinberger's trial. Apollo sees it another way, though. I think you're wrong. He won't do it now. It's still too early, but I bet he'll do it the day before he leaves office.
This great forthright about his diary. But Walsh believes Bush is an honorable man who prides himself on his character. It seems inconceivable that Bush would abuse the powers of the presidency. After the breakfast, Walsh heads back to his house in Oklahoma City, even on Christmas Eve day, Walsh doesn't take a break from work. Neither does his team. He has a conference call with his people at the Office of the Independent Counsel in D.C. During the call, Walsh learns that the White House will be issuing a press release on Iran-Contra at midday in just a few hours.
While his team prepares for the worst, they draft a statement and secure venue for a press conference of their own. Should a quick response be required. But noone comes and goes, and there's no press release from the White House. So a 12 30 Walsh decides to do something that is unnatural for him. He stops working and he goes on to try and enjoy the day just as he starts to change out of a suit he's brought right back. Walsh's wife answers the phone and hands it to Walsh necktie in one hand while she takes the phone in the other.
A White House staffer on the other end of the line tells Walsh the news President Bush is going to pardon Caspar Weinberger and Weinberger won't be alone. Former national security adviser Bud McFarlane and four other government officials guilty of crimes related to Iran-Contra will also be pardoned. Over the course of Walsh's six year investigation into the Iran Contra affair, he and his team have secured 12 convictions or guilty pleas to have been overturned. Now, on Christmas Eve 1992, President Bush pardoned six of the remaining 10 while hangs up the phone immediately puts his suit back on.
His wife asks him what's wrong? He quickly tells her the news and hurries out the house. Walsh has work to do. On December 24th at one p.m., Lawrence Walsh stands before a crowd of reporters in the big conference room at the Krewe and Donlevy law firm, his common voice but angry and words.
President Bush's pardon of Caspar Weinberger and other Iran-Contra defendants undermines the principle that no man is above the law. It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences. The Iran-Contra coverup has continued for more than six years. It has now been completed with the pardon of Caspar Weinberger. Weinberger's early and deliberate decision to conceal and withhold extensive contemporaneous notes is a part of a disturbing pattern of deception and obstruction that permeated the highest levels of the Reagan and Bush administrations.
Walsh keeps his composure, but he's simmering. My office was informed only within the past two weeks on December 11th, 1992, that President Bush had failed to produce to investigators his own highly relevant, contemporaneous notes, despite repeated requests for such documents. The production of these notes is still ongoing and will lead to appropriate action. It's a shot across the bow. Bush is a sitting president and most legal experts agree a sitting president cannot be indicted. Bush is only president for another month.
After thanking the press for coming out on Christmas Eve, he finally heads home feeling awful. Walsh knows his team has put up a good, hard fight, but it's starting to look like it might be for nothing. Walsh pulls into his driveway and parked his car, then head straight for the shower. But he isn't done for the day. Around 4:00 p.m., he sets out for an evening packed with interviews. He drives to the local PBS office to tape an interview for the McNeil Air NewsHour as he looks out the window of his car.
The wind Oklahoma sky seems dark and foreboding.
He feels like it's closing in on him, pulls into the barren parking lot, makes his way into the unattended reception area, and he waits alone until finally someone comes to get him.
The massive studio is empty, except for a technician who quickly wires him up, gives him an earpiece, clips on a mic and sits in a chair in front of a lone camera. There's no monitor for Walsh to watch the live broadcast, but he can hear the show patched into his earpiece. The pardon of Caspar Weinberger is the first story Walsh listens to excerpts from a press conference Weinberger held earlier that day.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm, of course, extremely happy with the president's decision because I am completely innocent.
I'm completely confident that I would have been acquitted in a real sitting there in the chair waiting for the unblinking eye of the camera to flickers of life. Walsh is reminded of a popular saying among criminal lawyers. If the laws against you talk about the facts, if the facts are against you, please talk about the law and what is worse. If both are against you, attack the prosecutors. Weinberger does just that. I've seen the first hand this way, this lawlessness and this vindictiveness of the independent counsel.
It troubles me greatly that those who are not in a position and I've been very fortunate those were not in a position to hire the most able counsel you can find and spend great amounts of time and effort and money to fight unwarranted charges will be forced to plead guilty to things that they have not done simply because they cannot afford it cannot run the risk of being steamrollered by a runaway prosecutor who has unlimited time, unlimited money, and is accountable to no one.
It's a very strange American institution. This prosecution of me and those of many others has been a mockery of law enforcement and of justice. We should really. And then a reporter in the crowd asks a pertinent question. Could you put in the clearest words possible what you think the motive for Mr. Walsh was? Well, I don't really know. You'll have to ask him the best of my knowledge. He seemed absolutely determined to get somebody. And I think that it really represents, to my mind, the dangers of combining this kind of investigatory responsibility with the prosecutorial responsibility.
He seemed to feel that he was going to be measured and judged on the number of convictions he got that withstood appellate review as well, sits in the chair in the PBS studio in Oklahoma listening to Weinberger besmirch his character. Well, he feels deflated. No, you'll have to. But then Weinberger says something that lights of fire under Walsh. And I have to confess that I think that's a very, very wrong way of going about it. I thought he was appointed to try to find out what had happened.
And I cooperated fully with him and gave him all these.
No, it's another bald faced lie to be. Weinberger did not cooperate fully and did not give Walsh all his notes. But by making this false statement on national television, he does give Lawrence Walsh new vigor. His fatigue vanishes and a jolt of energy overtakes him. On Christmas Eve 1992, Lawrence Walsh decides to make his last stand. American scandal is sponsored by Coors Seltzer. We all know the cold is the Rocky Mountains heritage, of course, and now you can get even more clean and crisp taste with Coors Seltzer.
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Make sure to tag at Coors Light in your posts. Beer purchase required offers vary by state. Must be twenty one or older. Visit promo rules dotcom Courcelles a rebate for details ends April 30th. Twenty twenty one celebrate responsibly. Coors Brewing Company, Fort Worth, Texas. In 1992, Walsh doesn't spend Christmas Eve at home with his family. Instead, he does a slew of interviews with PBS's CNN, ABC and a host of others. When asked by reporters if he'd like to respond to Weinberger's accusations, Walsh fires back with a shot of his own.
He says that Weinberger's his words show he lies as well in media interviews as he does when he testified before Congress. But Weinberger's not the central focus of Walsh's ire. That role belongs to President Bush on the various shows throughout the evening. Walsh explains that Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger for the very crime he committed himself, withholding evidence when interviewers asked him if Bush might be a target for prosecution. Walsh gives a straightforward response. Bush is the subject of our investigation now when they ask if Bush pardoned Weinberger as part of a cover up.
Walsh says it's the last card in the cover up. He's played the final card. Finally, as Christmas Eve winds to a close, Walsh returns home just as he's about to make himself a snack. His phone rings. It's one of the prosecutors from his office. He has a brief message. You heard him. Walsh wanted to hurt Bush on his mini press tour. He wanted to drive home that Bush's actions were a gross miscarriage of justice with his duty done whilst finally takes off his suit, eats a few bites and goes to bed.
Lawrence Walsh and his team had formally requested Bush's diaries on two occasions, once in February 1987, a few months after the investigation began and again in June 1992. But Bush held them back until December 11th, just a few weeks after the 1992 election. In December 92 and January 93, Walsh and his team learned why Bush may have delayed handing the notes over to the investigators. The notes clearly show that Bush knew more about the Iran arms operation than he let on, but they're not incriminating.
On February 4th, 1993, Walsh releases an interim report to Congress. The report lays out the evidence against Weinberger that would have been used at trial if he hadn't been pardoned by President Bush. It also paints a damning picture of Bush himself, a sitting president who abused his pardon power to cover up a scandal in which he was personally and officially involved. In the same month, Walsh negotiates with Bush's lawyers to try to get Bush to submit to a deposition.
But the negotiations fall apart when Bush's lawyers ask for too many restrictions by the end of February 1993. Walsh is out of options. Bush's diaries do not prove he broke the law. And even though Walsh can prove Bush withheld them, he's not confident he will win the case. So Walsh lets it go in his own words. I gave up. Maybe it's the lack of evidence. Or maybe Walsh feels it's time for the country to move on. Whatever the reason, just like that, he drops the investigation into former President Bush.
On August 4th, 1993, Walsh files his final report with a special division court of Appeals, the same office that hired him. He spends the next six months combating efforts by the lawyers of former members of the Reagan administration to suppress the report, including Ronald Reagan, Oliver North and Ed Meese. On January 18th, 1994, seven years after Walsh first came to Washington as independent counsel to the Iran-Contra investigation. The court releases his report to the public.
Lawrence Walsh will later write that his time as independent counsel reminds him of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man in the Sea, the tale of an old fisherman who struggled for days to catch a giant marlin finally victorious. The fisherman binds them all into the side of his boat and heads for sure. But when sharks attack, despite the fishermen's best efforts, they strip away every last bit of flesh of the marshlands. Bonnie, when the fishermen finally reaches the shore, he collapses on the ground, exhausted and spent and with no fish to show.
Walsh says that as independent counsel, I sometimes felt like the old man. More often I felt like the marlin. Walsh says that while some have argued that fraud, obstruction or perjury by members of the executive should be viewed as not a crime, but merely political roughhousing or hardball, he disagrees. Dishonesty seems a poor substitute for thoughtful analysis and forthright advocacy. Otherwise, we are left to conclude that certain people, because of their proximity to the president, are above the law.
Walsh's final report is damning to all involved, including former Presidents Bush and Reagan. Walsh writes that although there is no evidence that Ronald Reagan broke the law, he knowingly participated or at least acquiesced in covering up the truth of Iran-Contra, while states that although he found no evidence that George H.W. Bush had violated the law, that contrary to Mr. Bush's statements, he was fully aware of the Iran arms sales.
Walsh also writes that Bush withheld his diary notes and ultimately refused to cooperate and sit down for an interview. In a press conference on January 18th, 1994, the same day as his final report was released, a journalist asks Walsh a pointed question if all the facts that are now known had been known in 1987, for example, do you think it would have been appropriate for Congress to consider impeachment, either President Reagan or of Attorney General Meese? That certainly should have been considered.
Whether it would ever reach that point, I think is doubtful. But the fact is, Congress was deprived of that opportunity by their withholding of notes by Secretary Weinberger.
If I could push the impeachment question one step further.
And also on that same day, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush repeat their previous claims to the press that they did nothing wrong. After Walsh's report is made public, Bob Dole tells The New York Times Lawrence Walsh's seven year, 40 million plus witch hunt as a case study and prosecutorial abuse and excess. This final report is nothing more than a last minute effort to smear reputations. Apparently, Mr. Walsh doesn't care about his own. But Walsh will write that he sees Iran-Contra as a far more important, nearly existential affair.
What set Iran Contra apart from previous political scandals was the fact that a cover up engineered in the White House of one president and completed by his successor prevented the rule of law from being applied to the perpetrators of criminal activity of constitutional dimension. So which is it was Iran-Contra much ado about nothing? Was the investigation a political witch hunt or was the scandal littered with crimes of constitutional proportions? The scandal that men in positions of power, willfully concealed facts should never be flexible or open to interpretation.
A secret plan to sell arms to Iran and divert the funds to the Contras did happen. Those actions were contrary to stated administration policy and congressional order, and those actions were kept secret in a deception that went beyond what is required for a successful covert operation. Congress was lied to, investigators were lied to, and so was the American public. But the intentions were good. American lives were at stake, as was the viability of democracy in Central America. Oliver North, passionately and for many, successfully defended his activities as patriotic and necessary.
But still, the facts remain. In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year was post truth, when objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. The term was coined, they believe, in a 1992 essay on the Iran Contra affair in the nation, written by Serbian American playwright Steve Tosh. In it, he writes about the public's discomfort around the sordid facts revealed during the Watergate scandal, saying, We came to equate truth with bad news and we didn't want bad news anymore.
No matter how true or vital to our health as a nation, we look to our government to protect us from the truth. He posited that these same feelings were tapped into during the Iran-Contra affair. He wrote President Reagan perceived correctly that the public really didn't want to know the truth. So he lied to us, but he didn't have to work hard at it. Tisia concludes by saying We are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drool about in their dreams.
All the dictators up to now have had to work hard at suppressing the truth. We by our actions are saying that this is no longer necessary, that we have acquired a spiritual mechanism that continued truth of any significance in a very fundamental way. We as a free people have freely decided that we want to live in some post truth world. Next on American Scandal, we're airing a new interview for this encore presentation of Iran-Contra. We'll speak with Stephen Kinzer, a journalist and best selling author who writes about foreign policy.
We'll talk about the origins of the Iran Contra affair and why for decades, the U.S. has led coups of foreign governments from wandering. This is Episode five of Iran-Contra for American Scandal. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating. Leave a review. Be sure to tell your friends. Subscribe on Apple podcast Spotify or wherever you're listening. Now join one replacing the one to listen to episodes one week early and add free. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode.
Not supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support the show is by filling out a small survey and wondering DOCKUM survey to tell us what topics we might cover next. You can also find us and me on Twitter search for hashtag American Scandal or follow me at Lindsey Graham. Be sure to listen to my other podcast to American history tellers and American elections. Wicked game. Quick note about our reenacts. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatisations are based on historical research.
If you'd like to learn more about the Iran Contra affair, we recommend Firewall by Lawrence Walsh, underfire by Oliver North and Special Trust by Bud McFarlane. American Scandal is hosted, edited sound design and executive produced by me Lindsey Graham for additional production assistance by Derek Parents. This episode is written by Steve Walters, edited by Andrew Stelzer. Our consultant is Malcolm Byrne. We highly recommend his book, Iran Contra Reagan Scandal and the Unchecked Abuse of Presidential Power.
Executive producers are Stephanie Jones, Marshall Louie and Hernan Lopez for wondering.
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