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Former Special Prosecutor Says Bob Dole’s A Hypocrite Walsh Says Dole Was ‘Foremost Advocate’ Of Presidential Pardon For Iran-Contra Figure Caspar Weinberger

Robert L. Jackson Los Angeles Times

Former Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh attacked GOP challenger Bob Dole for “hypocrisy” Tuesday for criticizing President Clinton’s refusal to rule out pardons for Whitewater figures.

In excerpts from a forthcoming book and in a public statement, Walsh claimed Dole was “the foremost advocate” in urging then President Bush four years ago to grant a Christmas Eve pardon to former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger before his trial on cover-up charges in the Reagan-Bush administration’s foreign affairs scandal.

Bush pardoned Weinberger and five others a month before his presidency ended, an act Walsh says in his book raised questions as to “whether the president had granted pardons to protect himself.” Walsh apparently refers to speculation that Weinberger’s trial might have revealed an active Bush role in the scandal which Bush repeatedly denied.

Walsh’s comments revisit a feud between Dole and Walsh that began during the Bush administration. In Walsh’s last two years as independent counsel, he was sharply criticized by Dole, then the Senate Republican leader, for the length of his investigation and its soaring costs, which ultimately ran to more than $37 million.

Walsh, describing himself as a lifelong Republican, said in a written statement that Dole’s criticism of Clinton on the pardon issue “gives the voters a remarkable view of Dole’s hypocrisy.”

Dole has criticized Clinton for failing to rule out pardons for convicted Whitewater defendants James and Susan McDougal, his former business partners in the ill-fated Whitewater Development Corp. In a TV interview last month, Clinton was asked if he would grant such pardons. He replied that he would let the judicial process take its course.

Dole raised the subject with Clinton directly when the two candidates met in their first presidential debate Oct. 6 - and Clinton refused to pledge that he would not grant pardons.

Drawing a distinction between Whitewater and the Iranian-arms scandal, Walsh’s statement said that Dole “attempts to exploit President Clinton’s connection with long-ago business transactions that had ended before he became president, while Dole himself had urged pardons for crimes of constitutional dimension committed in office by a Reagan cabinet officer.”

At the time of his pardon, Weinberger had been due to stand trial a month later on perjury charges as the highest ex-official to be charged in the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved the secret sale of arms to Iran to help fund U.S.-backed anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua.

In the short excerpts from his forthcoming book, “Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up,” Walsh reiterates the strong distaste for the pardons that he expressed at the time.

“I did not think that George Bush, who seemed to pride himself on his character, would be the first president to use his pardon powers in a cover-up.”

Walsh says in his book that while he originally respected Dole “for the courage he had shown in surmounting his war wounds … and for his hard-fought political career,” Walsh says in his book he lost all respect for Dole in the 1992 pardons.

Walsh says his objections were not so strong for granting pardons to people already convicted.

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