INDEPENDENT COUNSEL INVESTIGATIONS DURING THE REAGAN ADMINISTRATION:

 

Special Prosecutor Leon SilvermanInvestigation of Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan

 

During January 1981, the FBI conducted a standard background investigation of possible appointee Raymond J. Donovan for Secretary of Labor.  Summaries of the investigation were furnished through the Assistant Attorney General's Office of Legislative Affairs, Department of Justice, to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, as well as the Office of the President Elect.

 

Because of certain discrepancies in the above investigation and ongoing Congressional concerns about those discrepancies, subsequent to Secretary Donovan’s appointment, Special Prosecutor Leon Silverman was designated to conduct an investigation of Donovan, in accordance with provisions of the Ethics in Government Act on behalf of the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

 

Independent Counsel James McKayInvestigation of Department of Justice Role in the Congressional Investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency Top Officials

 

In 1984, the House Judiciary Committee launched an investigation of the role of the Justice Department in the 1982-1983 Congressional investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency (see Subseries A). The Committee published its conclusions in a December 1985 report that accused Justice Department attorneys of deliberately obstructing the investigation of the EPA. Allegations included providing misleading reports and testimony, withholding incriminating material, and advising the President to make a claim of Executive privilege despite doubts about the sustainability of such a claim.

 

As a result of the Judiciary Committee report, the Justice Department appointed an Independent Counsel, James McKay, in April 1986. McKay was asked to determine whether former Justice Department attorney Theodore B. Olson had obstructed the 1982-83 investigation of the EPA. When McKay resigned after a month, he was succeeded by his deputy, Alexia J. Morrison. Morrison attempted to expand the investigation, but the D.C. Circuit Court upheld the authority of Attorney General Edwin Meese III to limit the investigation to the charges against Olson. Morrison then issued subpoenas to Olson and two other former Justice Department attorneys, who responded by challenging the Independent Counsel law in court. In June 1988 the Supreme Court, ruling in the case Morrison v. Olson, upheld the constitutionality of the Independent Counsel. In August 1988 Morrison issued her final report on the investigation, and announced in a press statement that she would not seek charges against Olson.

 

Independent Counsel Whitney North SeymourInvestigation of Michael Deaver

 

After leaving the White House in 1985, Michael Deaver became a Washington lobbyist whose clients included some foreign governments. Deaver allegedly violated the Ethics in Government Act by lobbying former Administration colleagues before legally allowed. The Independent Counsel Act was invoked in May 1986, and Whitney North Seymour was appointed to investigate. Deaver was eventually indicted for lying to a Congressional subcommittee and a grand jury about his lobbying activities, and was convicted in December 1987.

 

Independent Counsel James McKayInvestigation of Lyn Nofziger/Edwin Meese

 

In February 1987, Independent Counsel James McKay was appointed to investigate allegations that Franklyn (Lyn) Nofziger had violated the Ethics in Government Act by lobbying former Administration colleagues on behalf of various clients before legally allowed. One of these clients was Wedtech Corporation, a New York City-based firm formerly known as Welbilt Electronic Die Corporation. Other clients included Fairchild Industries, the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, and a California rice company that had a contract with the South Korean government.

 

E. Robert Wallach, a personal friend of Attorney General Edwin Meese III, was also lobbying the White House on behalf of Wedtech. In May 1987, the Independent Counsel’s investigation was broadened to include allegations of Meese’s possible illegal involvement with Wedtech. The Independent Counsel went on to investigate several additional allegations against Meese, including: his promotion within the Administration, at Wallach’s request, of a proposed Iraq-to-Jordan oil pipeline; possible conflicts of interest in his involvement with telecommunications policy while owning telephone stock; and issues regarding the funding of Mrs. Meese’s job, and the Meeses’ tax returns.

 

Independent Counsel Jacob SteinInvestigation of Edwin Meese

 

The order of appointment of Independent Counsel directed Independent Counsel Jacob A. Stein to investigate the role of Edwin Meese III with respect to the federal employment of certain persons who allegedly may have conferred on Mr. Meese things of value. 

 

Independent Counsel Lawrence WalshInvestigation of Iran/Contra Affair

 

Lawrence Walsh was appointed Independent Counsel in 1987 to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair.  In 1986, members of the Reagan National Security Council illegally sold arms to Iran in the hope that Iran would put pressure on terrorist groups holding American hostages in Lebanon to release them.  In addition, funds received from the sale of the arms were illegally transferred to support the Contra fighters against the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. 

 

As a result of Walsh’s investigation the following Reagan administration individuals were indicted and convicted (usually on the charge of withholding information or lying to Congress): National Security staff member Oliver North, National Security Advisors Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Elliott Abrams of the State Department and Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers and Clair George of the Central Intelligence Agency.  North and Poindexter had their convictions overturned on appeal when the courts upheld violation of their Fifth Amendment rights.  The remaining individuals were pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.