Bush to disclose diary excerpts on Iran-contra President hopes records prove he did nothing illegal

January 13, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- President Bush plans to release excerpt from his diary as well as testimony that he gave to Iran-contra prosecutors five years ago in a move that the White House argues will demonstrate that he played no illegal role in the affair.

White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said yesterday that the disclosures, which could come by the end of the week, "will be good for the president because it clearly shows that he doesn't have any involvement here that's questionable in a legal sense."

The ultimate value of the information, however, remains in doubt. Sources familiar with the investigation said that they regarded the issue of Mr. Bush's testimony as diversionary.

Also, the White House has not said why Mr. Bush had not disclosed the contents of the diary to prosecutors until last month -- more than five years after he was asked by Iran-contra Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh to turn over any relevant materials in the matter.

Release of the sworn testimony has been a central element in the president's effort to clear up questions about whether he knew more than has been revealed about the Iran-contra matter.

The questions grew in force after his pardon of former Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger and five other Iran-contra figures. The pardons eliminated the possibility that additional details about Mr. Bush's knowledge of the plan would surface in court.

Mr. Weinberger had been scheduled to go to trial Jan. 5 on four felony charges.

Another source familiar with Mr. Bush's questioning agreed that release of the testimony would give him no legal problems. But, the source added: "It goes further than anything he said publicly."

The five hours of testimony was videotaped. The White House did not specify, however, whether it would release copies of the videotape, a transcript of the testimony, or both.

The testimony, sources close to the investigation have noted, was taken before Mr. Walsh and his investigators had gathered key information, particularly on alleged efforts to cover up what key figures knew about the secret arms for hostages swap, and the diversion of proceeds to the Nicaraguan rebels, known as the contras.

For those reasons, the prosecutors' questioning of Mr. Bush in 1988 was restricted by the limits of their own knowledge about the then-murky details.

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