Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told a national TV audience Monday that President Reagan should pardon former White House aide Oliver L. North of any criminal wrongdoing in the Iran-Contra scandal.
The comments came in a face-off with Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, who like Hatch was a member of the Iran-Contra congressional panel, on ABC's "Good Morning America."Their mini-debate came shortly before the judge in the Iran-Contra case told North on Monday that he could not invoke presidential power to justify his role in diverting Iranian arms-sale profits to the Nicaraguan rebels.
Hatch, perhaps the most ardent defender of North and the Reagan administration during the Iran-Contra hearings, said "there should be a pardon," characterizing the Iran-Contra scandal as mostly a dispute between Congress and the president over who should control foreign policy.
He said North and other co-defendants were merely trying to implement foreign policy as "the president wanted them to do" and had no criminal intent.
He said the question really being debated is "who's going to have power over foreign policy, the Congress of the United States, which has never had it, or the president of the United States, who always had."
Mitchell said, however, that a pardon for North should not be considered until all the evidence is presented at trial.
"A grant of pardon here would tell everyone there are two standards of justice in our society, one for those close friends and associates of the president, a second for everyone else in our society. That's wrong," he said.
But Hatch said, "Just think of the unfairness. We've had 30 prosecutors, 50 investigators, $10.2 million spent already on this so far and it's probably going to cost eight times more - $80 million of taxpayer dollars to really get involved in what really is a dispute between the Congress of the United States and the presidency as to who controls foreign policy.
"And guess who the pawns are? Three people who served at high levels of government with distinction (and) who had no criminal intent."