Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on the Report of the Congressional Committee Investigating the Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy

 

November 18, 1987

 

The report of the congressional committee investigating the Iran-contra affair confirms the information contained in the Tower board report and summarizes testimony that we all watched on television this summer. As shown by this report, the President did not know of the diversion of funds. When he found out, he acted immediately to begin the many investigations that have looked into this matter.

 

The President has cooperated every step of the way, providing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents to the committee, to the Independent Counsel, and to the Tower board. As these investigations have unfolded, the President made it clear that he accepts responsibility and understands that mistakes were made in the conduct of these policies. On March 4, following the Tower board report, the President said: ``What began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated in its implementation into trading arms for hostages. This runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and to the original strategy we had in mind. There are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake.'' On August 12, after the televised hearings had concluded, the President told the Nation: ``I let my preoccupation with the hostages intrude into areas where it didn't belong. The image -- the reality -- of Americans in chains, deprived of their freedom and families so far from home, burdened my thoughts, and this was a mistake.''

 

Also in the process of these investigations, the President began to make the orderly changes in government that would prevent these kinds of instances from happening again. He brought in a new team at the National Security Council, headed by Frank Carlucci, to make those changes. The President instituted new recording procedures. He created a new post of an NSC legal adviser to ensure greater sensitivity to the matters of law. He recommended that a congressional joint committee on intelligence be formed to oversee the intelligence community. He reached an agreement with existing congressional intelligence committees on the sharing of information. He revised the operations of the NSC to strengthen the interagency processes of decisionmaking, and in general, he has even gone beyond the Tower board recommendations in changing the foreign policy decision-making process in the White House.

 

This new report reflects the subjective opinions in not even the unanimous judgment of the committee. There is a minority report and separate dissenting views. But the committee should be commended for its long, arduous work over the last many months. It has given the American people, through its televised hearings, direct access to the information in this case. The American people have had the opportunity to make their own judgments, and it serves no purpose for us to argue with the opinions of the committee members.

 

The President did not violate any laws; even the majority report does not so state. In view of the ongoing Independent Counsel investigation, we feel that it is inappropriate to make legal judgments. This report is but another step in the investigatory process. But, it does culminate the long summer of self-examination for America and for the administration, and now we are through it. We are moving on, and we trust that out of this experience has come a new wisdom about the process of governing in America.