Informal Exchange With Reporters on Colonel Oliver North

 

December 1, 1988

 

Q. Mr. President, why are you blocking disclosure of some documents on the Oliver North case, sir?

 

The President. The things we're blocking are the things that duty requires we block. These are things that are national security secrets.

 

Q. Is this a backdoor way to block a trial?

 

The President. No, this is something that from the very beginning we knew we would have to do.

 

Q. Would you be at all upset if this prevented the prosecution of Oliver North?

 

The President. The law must take its course.

 

Q. Mr. President, you said several months ago that you believed both Colonel North and Admiral Poindexter eventually would be found innocent of any crimes in connection with Iran-contra. Do you still believe that?

 

The President. Well, at this stage I don't think I should comment on guilt or innocence or anything of this kind. I think the law has got to take its course.

 

Q. When you say the law has got to take its course, Mr. President, do you mean you're still opposed to a pardon until the legal process plays out?

 

The President. Yes, from the very beginning I've said that to consider a pardon would leave -- even if I did that -- would leave them under a shadow of guilt for the rest of their lives. I think, we have to let the judicial process proceed.

 

Note: The exchange began at 2:02 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House, prior to a briefing on trade issues with administration officials.