Mr. MITCHELL: On the securing of the documents, it is with hindsight, but a rea- sonable case can be made that the time at which preservation of documents should occur is the time when inspection of documents occurs, that is, if it is important enough to look" at documents, it ought to be important enough to think about preserving them. I gather from what you are saying is that you were acting in good faith, it simply didn't occur to you at that point on Friday that any steps should be taken to preserve documents from destruction?

Attorney General MEESE: That is correct, it did not occur to me or anyone else, and we follow the same process as I mentioned that you do in your investigating committees here.

Mr. MITCHELL: When did you first think about the possibility of criminal investigation?

Attorney General MEESE: The first real thought that I gave to the possibility of criminal investigation was probably on Monday afternoon—the investigation was probably Tuesday, the 25th.

Mr. MITCHELL: Well, before you go any further, recall what you just said In response to Senator Cohen.

Attorney General MEESE: There I said the possibility that crimi- nal laws might possibly have been violated.

Mr. MITCHELL: Criminal implications I think—

Attorney General MEESE: Criminal implications, right.

Mr. MITCHELL: —was on Sunday when you talked to Colonel North

Attorney General MEESE: That is correct.

Mr. MITCHELL: Would that have been the first time that entered your mind.

Attorney General MEESE: Criminal implications, yes, I'm sure.

Mr. MITCHELL: But you still did not think about securing docu- ments at that point?

Attorney General MEESE: Well, Senator, we already had exam- ined all the documents and we already, in fact, had the key docu- ment, the evidentiary document known as the diversion memo, which was the significant document—a copy of that in our posession.

Mr. MITCHELL: When you say we had examined all the docu- ments, you had examined all the documents that you had seen until then, but in fact there were a great many documents that you never did see nor anybody else?

Attorney General MEESE: Well, we don't know whether those were relevant documents, irrelevant documents, or what they were

Mr. MITCHELL: Do you think Colonel North spent from 11:00 in the evening until 4:15 the next morning destroying irrelevant docu- ments?

Attorney General MEESE: I think he probably did. I think there were a lot of documents that he destroyed that had no relationship to the Iranian initiative or had any relationship to the Contra di- version of funds. There were probably a lot of other things that he may well have destroyed document,. that he didn't want anyone to see.

Mr. MITCHELL: On what do you base that opinion?

Attorney General MEESE: That is just a guess, as much specula- tion as yours that there were relevant documents.