Iran-contra prosecutor denies political motives

November 11, 1992|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- With a sly reminder that he is himself a Republican, the special Iran-contra prosecutor moved yesterday to defuse complaints from the Bush administration and the Senate GOP leader that he tried to sabotage President Bush's political future just before the election.

Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh, in a letter to Senate Republican Leader Robert J. Dole of Kansas,not only denied acting out of political motives, but tried to turn the tables by accusing Mr. Dole of intruding into the ongoing criminal case against former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

Mr. Walsh has been under attack, indirectly by Mr. Bush and directly by Mr. Dole, Vice President Quayle and a number of anonymous administration sources, for issuing a new indictment against Mr. Weinberger just four days before the Nov. 3 election.

The indictment contained information that contradicted Mr. Bush's claim that he was "out of the loop" in briefings on the arms-for-hostages deal, when he was vice president.

Although there apparently has been some talk within the administration that Mr. Bush might retaliate with a presidential pardon of Mr. Weinberger and others figuring in the Iran-contra affair -- thus scuttling Mr. Walsh's remaining efforts -- the White House has said that pardons are not in preparation.

Mr. Dole has assumed the main public role of attacking Mr. Walsh. in the wake of the pre-election indictment, which leveled new charges at Mr. Weinberger. The Senate GOP leader has urged a probe of the timing of the new indictment.

In a letter Monday to Mr. Walsh, the Kansas senator said the timing of the indictment "raises the issue of whether politics was a factor of the decision-making process." He also referred to press reports that hinted that Mr. Walsh may have given advance notice of the indictment to the campaign headquarters of President-elect Clinton.

In a reply made public here yesterday, the prosecutor said that the timing of the indictment had been settled earlier, that the indictment planning was done before he hired San Francisco lawyer -- and activist Democrat -- James Brosnahan to handle the Weinberger case, and that no advance word of the matter was given to the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Walsh noted that both he and Mr. Brosnahan had contributed to their opposite political parties, but before they took on roles as special prosecutors. While not saying explicitly that he was a Republican -- a well-known fact -- Mr. Walsh wrote to Senator Dole: "You may be sure that I have long respected your contribution as the leader of my party in the Senate."

While saying that he regretted "exceedingly that we have come into controversy" over the Weinberger indictment incident, the prosecutor appeared to add to that controversy with a blunt accusation against Mr. Dole.

He wrote: "I can recall no case where a Senate leader has so directly intruded himself in a pending lawsuit."

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