Ex-Attorney General Edwin Meese testified Wednesday that his chief concern as the Iran-Contra scandal unraveled in November 1986 was not the possible impeachment of President Ronald Reagan but political damage control.
As prosecutors prepared to rest their case in Oliver North's trial later Wednesday, Meese told the jury that when he questioned North about the foreign policy affair Nov. 23, 1986, he urged the White House aide to tell the truth because "we wanted nothing no one could call a cover-up."The former attorney general was one of the last government witnesses in the case against North, the former National Security Council staffer now facing 12 felony charges from the Iran-Contra scandal, including lying to Meese in that Nov. 23 interview.
John Keker, the chief trial prosecutor and deputy to independent prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, told U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell that after 51/2 weeks of testimony and more than 170 exhibits, he planned to rest his case Wednesday afternoon.
Defense lawyer Brendan Sullivan said that once remaining legal questions are resolved - including calling Reagan as a witness - his case would take only three to nine days of court time.
Meese, in concluding his testimony, said the almost daily revelations in November 1986 about the secret U.S. arms sales to Iran were creating huge political problems for Reagan at the time.
"Were you worried that he would be impeached?" Keker asked.
"No, I didn't think so at the time," Meese replied. "I wanted to be sure that nothing was being done that political opponents, particularly in Congress, could use to call a cover-up."