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But Congress did try to gather evidence that they could have used in an impeachment. In 1987, Reagan delivered congressional testimony and repeatedly insisted that he couldn't recall any details regarding the Iran-Contra operations. Sounds like a pretty blatant lie to me, but Congress didn't push him further.





We should note that the Constitution doesn't actually grant the president the power of executive privilege. It's more of a tradition than a court of law. And it's hard to imagine what national security issue Reagan would have been protecting when he refused to hand over his diary. After all, the judge didn't ask for the entire journal, just selected excerpts that related to the Iran-Contra affair.





Either way, that's fair. But the first conviction came in April 1987, when Karl Shanelle pled guilty to a felony conspiracy charge. Several other plaintiffs faced indictments throughout 1987 and 1988 before Bush won the election. They had no way of knowing that a Republican would become president or have the power to pardon them. And that leads us to another big problem. The Iran-Contra affair became public knowledge during the lead up to an election year. President Reagan was wrapping up his second term.


It doesn't make sense for lawmakers to protect a president who is on his way out, especially when their behavior could hurt the GOP's reputation or threaten Bush's chances of getting into office.


On the other hand, maybe the election cycle inspired Congress to protect Reagan. It's hard to admit the current president is corrupt while insisting that his vice president is blameless and deserves four more years in office. So maybe the crux of this theory isn't that Congress wanted to protect Reagan, but that they wanted to secure Bush's chances at the presidency.


Whatever their motive, Reagan got off scot free. He could thank a lack of crucial documentation. A slew of stalwart supporters and a deteriorating memory, and it's undeniable that his colleagues helped make it as hard as possible for Congress to impeach him on a scale of one to ten, where ten means the conspiracy is probably true and one means it's totally unbelievable.
























Beyond the individual theories, one of the most interesting things about the Iran-Contra affair is how it failed to tarnish Reagan and Bush's presidencies and given how extensive the scandal was. It's weird that it seems to have been completely forgotten today. You don't hear people discussing the arms trade or funds diversions, and it's not generally taught in schools.