Key Democrats are indicating they have no intention of ignoring new questions about the role President Bush played in Reagan administration efforts to illegally arm the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
In interviews Sunday, Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., chairman of a special committee that investigated the Iran-Contra affair, and Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, both claimed an obligation to fully investigate Bush's role.Speaking to NBC's "Meet the Press," Hamilton insisted that his committee never got the full story in its investigation into the secret White House plan to sell arms to Iran and divert profits from those sales to the Nicaraguan Contras despite a congressional ban on aiding the rebels.
"With all my involvement, I still do not know exactly what the role of President Reagan was, exactly what the role of then-Vice President Bush was in all of these events," Hamilton said.
Hamilton's comments came in the wake of the conviction Thursday of former White House aide Oliver North on three out of 12 counts stemming from his role in the Iran-Contra affair.
As a result of the trial, a key document came to light that showed Bush met in February 1985 with then Honduran President Roberto Suazo. At the time, the document showed, Bush promised the government of Honduras that the United States would increase its foreign aid in exchange for help for the Contras.
Although Bush told reporters "there was no quid pro quo" involved, Hamilton expressed his doubts.
"I'm skeptical," Hamilton said. "That's the whole story of Iran-Contra, I think.
Hamilton did not, however, say that Congress would reopen an investigation into Bush's role but left open the possibility that his committee could be reactivated.
"I think I have and other members of Congress have a responsibility to pursue these matters," he said.
Obey echoed those sentiments in an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation," noting "It seems to me we have an obligation to find out exactly what the facts are before we provide new money" to the Contras.
"What the president suggests is that there was not a quid pro quo at that meeting (in Honduras). With all due respect to the president, that's not the issue," Obey said. "The fact is that we've been told three times by administration witnesses that there was no quid pro quo, no linkage.
"But the documents that came out of the North trial seem to indicate quite clearly that there was," he said.
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., however, defended Bush on "Face the Nation" and called the "resurrection of the whole issue simply because (of) some documents . . . very unfortunate."
"It seems to me that it's clear that throughout the entire period of the Reagan administration, we were giving a lot of assistance to Honduras and we did so simply because they were very helpful in our foreign policy," Lugar said. "To try to link President Bush to this, I think is a bad mistake."