Minority report takes strong issue. Denies there was general disrespect for the rule of law
Most of the Republican members of the Iran-contra investigating committees refused to endorse the final report, charging that it tried to reach ``hysterical conclusions'' that were unsupported by facts. In a separate minority report, those Republicans charged that Congress itself should bear much of the blame for the Iran-contra affair.
The minority report was signed by Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and James McClure and Reps. William Broomfield, Dick Cheney, Jim Courter, Michael DeWine, Henry Hyde, and Bill McCollum.
However, three Republican senators - William Cohen, Warren Rudman, and Paul Trible - broke with their colleagues and endorsed the majority findings.
The eight Republican dissenters charged that the majority report ``reads as if it were a weapon in the ongoing guerrilla warfare'' between the White House and Congress.
``The narrative is not a fair description of events, but an advocate's legal brief that arrays and selects so-called `facts' to fit preconceived theories. Some of the resulting narrative is accurate and supported by the evidence. A great deal is overdrawn, speculative, and built on a selective use of the committees' documentary materials,'' the Republicans charged.
``The bottom line,'' according to the minority report, ``is that the mistakes of the Iran-contra affair were just that - mistakes in judgment and nothing more.
``There was no constitutional crisis, no systematic disrespect for `the rule of law,' no grand conspiracy, and no administration-wide dishonesty or cover-up.''
In particular, the minority flatly rejected the possibility that President Reagan did, in fact, know of the diversion of funds from the Iranian arms sales to the Nicaraguan contras.
``The evidence shows that the President did not know about the diversion,'' the minority report says. `Any attempt to suggest otherwise can only be seen as an effort to sow meritless doubts in the hope of reaping a partisan political advantage.''
The Republicans characterized the destruction of documents by a former national-security adviser, Rear Adm. John M. Poindexter, and a National Security Council staff member, Lt. Col. Oliver North, as ``deplorable.''
But it rejected the inference that, because documents were destroyed, the full story of the Iran-contra affair remains shrouded. The weight of the evidence, the minority concludes, supports President Reagan's claim that he was left in the dark about the more questionable activities of his subordinates.
In fact, the Republicans raised doubts as to whether any of those actions were illegal.
``In our view,'' the members wrote, ``the administration did proceed legally in pursuing both its contra policy and the Iran arms initiative.''
``We grant,'' they added, ``that the diversion does raise some legal questions....''
But, they continued, ``We do believe that virtually all of the NSC staff's activities were legal, with the possible exception of the diversion....''
Senator Rudman yesterday characterized certain portions of the minority report as ``pathetic.'' Paraphrasing Adlai Stevenson, he said the minority members ``separated the wheat from the chaff and sowed the chaff.''
The minority members conceded that the secrecy and deception employed by the NSC staff and other members of the administration ``was a fundamental mistake.''
``It was self-defeating to think a program this important could be sustained by deceiving Congress,'' the minority concluded.
``Whether technically illegal or not, it was politically foolish and counterproductive to mislead Congress, even if misleading took the form of artful evasion or silence instead of overt misstatement.''