Mr. RUDMAN: I want to ask you what is probably the single-most important question that we can ask you, which is one that none of us understand,
and if you can explain it to us, we would be very grateful.
By the morning that it was decided that Colonel North and Ad-
miral Poindexter would be relieved of their posts, although
major portions of the story, to your credit, there were many things
that you didn't have. You didn't know how much money was in-
volved from the people who were involved with it. You didn’t know
who the agents were. You didn't know who else in government
knew. I could go on.
One thing came through loud and clear from both Admiral Poindexter
and Colonel North: No matter what else you might want to
about their testimony, it was clear, at least to me, that they
were very loyal to this President and they were very loyal institutionally
to the office of Commander in Chief and the President, and what we have a hard time in understanding is, I understand the
pressure, but we are talking about maybe 1 or 2 more days; how is it that the President, through his Attorney General, or the President
directly on your recommendation did not get these two people
into an office at the White House before they left, before an independent
prosecutor, before you even thought it was a criminal
matter and asked to write not a chronology but a report on who
did what to whom and when and how it was paid for? Why didn't
you get the whole story that would have foreshortened our job, Mr.
Attorney General, by a matter of months? Obviously, there might
have been facts disclosed at that time that we still don't know.
Attorney General MEESE: First of all, we did know much of the
things you mentioned. We did know how much money was involved.
Colonel North had· told us that he thought that there was
about-there had been in this one particular situation about $12
million involved, and he -felt that that had happened two or three
times. That was the basis for my estimate during the news conference,
that it was somewhere between $10- and $30 million that was
involved. So we did have the word from Colonel North already at
that time as to how much money was involved.
Secondly, as to who the agents were, Colonel North in his description
of what he had told us, and we had no reason to think he
would change that On further questioning, indicated how this had
happened, I related that yesterday, and indicated that he was the
one who had worked with the Democratic Resistance Forces in setting
up of the bank accounts and who was doing the different actions,
And, thirdly, he had already told us, as had Admiral Poindexter,
who in the Government knew, so we knew exactly what their story
was on those points.
I think those are all reasons why we knew a great deal at that time. But to go on, at that point there was no doubt in my mind
that it was in fact a criminal investigation that would be needed
to ensue and therefore we did bring the criminal division or the
criminal attorneys and the FBI into it immediately, and they
would have been the ones to question both Admiral Poindexter and
Colonel North. And by the time they were prepared to do that, of course, they had gotten attorneys.
Mr. RUDMAN: That may be, Mr. Attorney General, but I would
submit to you, having great respect for the criminal justice system,
that under these extraordinary circumstances that two members of
the Armed Forces, a rear admiral and a lieutenant colonel, both with distinguished military careers, with all that you have said being so, would
have been able to tell their Commander in Chief anything he asked them, and I'm just surprised that someone
didn’t put them into that situation and thus avoid the country much of the agony.
For instance, had we had a statement from Admiral Poindexter
Signed and witnessed as to what he told this committee
dated the 25th day of November, I dare say that we wouldn't have
any lights in here at all.
Attorney General MEESE: The interesting thing, Senator is that
what he told this committee when he was here was exactly what
he had told me in terms of the President's knowledge or anyone
else in the White House.
Mr. RUDMAN: But, of course, by the time he left the White
House, that statement was unavailable to this committee.
Attorney General MEESE: No.
Mr. RUDMAN: Oh, yes.
Attorney General MEESE: I am saying he told me exactly what he
told the committee. So suppose he had said to anyone else 2 days
later what he told me on Monday, the 24th, how would that have
made any difference?
Mr. RUDMAN: I think a great difference would have been if we
had had from Admiral Poindexter before he left the White House,
and Colonel North, a written description of what they did and what
authority he had. I think there was an obligation to do that to the
President. Let me just wind up.
Attorney General MEESE: Senator, let me also say the President
could not have ordered them to do that without reading them their
rights under section, I believe, 31 or 32 of the Uniform Code of
Military Justice. A whole different set of circumstances had come
into play by that time than what we had when I talked with Colonel
North and when I talked with Admiral Poindexter on the 23d
Mr. RUDMAN: I agree.
Attorney General MEESE: People have even made the statement,
"I should have read him his Miranda rights." Obviously, there was
no reason to read him at that time. But by the 25th, there certainly
was reason to read him his Article 32 rights or Article 31—
the case may be—under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Mr. RUDMAN: I think, all things being equal, taking Colonel
North's testimony that he would "literally stand on his head" if ordered
by the Commander In Chief, it would have been time to have
a little history made and have them read their Article 31 or 32
rights. I think this matter was so important that the President of the
United States was ent itled to all of the facts from his two sub-
ordinates before they left the White House, criminal charges not-
withstanding. That is my view.
Attorney General MEESE: My view, Senator, is that we had all of
that information before they left the White House and that not one
thing that has been said since that time by Admiral Poindexter,
and only in the case of Mr. Casey has it varied from what we were
told on that Sunday and Monday.