Profiles » George H.W. Bush
George H.W. Bush Vice President
George H.W. Bush served as vice president of the United States throughout the Iran-Contra Affairs. Accordingly, Walsh investigated the extent of his knowledge about the Affairs, his involvement in their cover-up, and his refusal to produce his diary entries from those years. After his election to the presidency in 1989, Bush continued to play a role in the Affairs through his pardons of Elliott Abrams, Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, Jr., Clair George, Robert McFarlane, and Caspar Weinberger.
The area of greatest concern to investigators was Bush’s failure to produce relevant diary entries despite repeated requests by the Independent Counsel. In March 1987, after extensive negotiations between the relevant congressional committees, Walsh, and the White House, Walsh submitted a request for personal and official records—that specifically mentioned relevant diary entries—from the beginning of the Reagan Administration through January 1987. Written documentation existed to show that Bush and his counsel received and knew about this request. For example, a memorandum to Reagan regarding the production of his own diary was initialed by Bush and marked “V.P. Has Seen.” In the summer of 1992, Walsh submitted another request for Bush’s diaries from mid-1985 until December 1987.
Nevertheless, Walsh did not receive this diary until December 1992. The next month, Bush’s private counsel reported that the vice president did not recall the 1987 request and never knew that the relevant documents included diaries, despite the written evidence mentioned earlier. Even though his counsel stated that his failure to submit the diary was inadvertent, Bush’s own writings raise doubt about that claim. After learning that Secretary of State George Shultz submitted notes on meetings with Reagan, he wrote:
Shultz had kept 700 pages of personal notes, dictated to his staff […] Notes on personal meetings he had with the President. I found this almost inconceivable. Not only that he kept the notes, but that he'd turned them all over to Congress […] I would never do it. I would never surrender such documents and I wouldn't keep such detailed notes.
With respect to Bush’s contemporaneous knowledge of the Affairs, Walsh deposed him on January 11, 1988. After he was elected president, however, it became more difficult to interview him again, as Walsh had hoped to do. Indeed, Bush refused to speak about anything but his failure to produce his diary and notes, terms Walsh rejected. Since Bush was the sitting president, and because criminal prosecution was deemed unlikely, Walsh did not subpoena him.
However, in his final report, Walsh identified a number of issues about which he hoped to question Bush, areas in which evidence seemed to conflict with his previous testimony. These issues included his knowledge of Israeli arms sales to Iran, his 1986 meeting with Israeli official Amiram Nir, his knowledge of quid-pro-quo dealings with countries that pledged to support the Contras, and his and Vice Presidential National Security Adviser Donald Gregg’s meetings with National Security Council staff member Oliver North.