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" I had no knowledge then or now that there had been a diversion"

Here are excerpts from former President Ronald Reagan's testimony as a defense witness in the Iran-Contra trial of his former national security adviser, John Poindexter: The testimony begins with direct examination by Poindexter's lawyer, Richard W. Beckler.

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. Well, I take it there came a time _ well, the first time, on Nov. 13th (1986), you made an address to the nation. This is about the Iranian missile project.

A. Yes. To _ to explain that we were not doing business with Khomeini. Quite the contrary. We were keeping it very secret from him what we were doing.

Q. Then you also about six days later, on November 19th .

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. you again went before the American public and had a press conference on that same subject, six days later?

A. .

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. In my memory, there was a _ there was a second time, and that was when the attorney general had located a paper which revealed that there had been more money than the 12-million two (hundred thousand dollars) that we had received, and that it had been deposited in a Swiss bank account, and that that account had been used in some way by people helping the Contras. .

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Q. .

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. Between the Nov. 13th and the Nov. 19th addresses that you made to the nation, did you receive information from Admiral Poindexter that enabled you to make those presentations to the public?

A. I don't recall.

Q. .

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. The day before that, November 12th, you attended a meeting with congressional leaders, and we understand that that was first to tell Congress what was going on, so to speak, before you went to the public on that situation.

Do you have any recollection of that meeting with Congress?

A. I know that someplace in there there were two meetings, depending on the two various times, that we corrected the story, that I did meet with the congressional leadership, members of both parties.

Q. Do you recall just _ I am not asking you to be at all specific. But do you recall generally what was discussed with Congress at that meeting on November 12th?

A. Well, it was mainly my explaining to them what the situation was and how it had come about. .

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Q. Do you recall at that meeting whether or not you mentioned to the congressional leaders anything about this Hawk missile shipment that had taken place back in the previous November of 1985?

A. No. I don't recall ever reporting that to anyone. .

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Q. Mr. President, at some point, do you recall Admiral Poindexter _ this is now in November of 1986. Do you remember Admiral Poindexter telling you that people in the White House were having trouble remembering _ or some of those events in 1985 on the Hawk missile shipment, there were differing recollections of the events?

A. No. I don't recall hearing that.

Q. Do you recall in 1986 meeting at all with (Attorney General Edwin) Meese and asking him if he can lend a hand in straightening out the recollections of various people?

A. No. My memory of Mr. Meese's participation was when, after all of that thing had broken, that he was the one who located a piece of paper in some office that indicated that there was additional money. And that was _ his participation was as attorney general in case there was something untoward that was waiting there to haunt us. And that was where I got the knowledge about the extra money, and that is the only thing that I remember about from him.

Q. .

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. Do you recall Secretary of State (George) Shultz coming to you in November of 1986 _ this is in that Nov. 19th-Nov. 20th time frame of 1986 _ and telling you about a Hawk missile shipment that took place back in December of _ excuse me _ November of 1985?

A. I don't recall that.

Q. Now, did there come a time, Mr. President, in 1984 _ early 1984 _ when it looked like funds that Congress had provided for Contra support were running out? Do you recall that time frame?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you recall what your instructions were to your top people at that time as to what ought to be done about this?

A. Yes. My instructions were that whatever we did in trying to maintain the existence of the Contras should be done within the law. I emphasized that at every time.

And I knew that there were groups of citizens who were on the side of the Contras and who were soliciting funds to be of help to the Contras. And I told them that maybe some of these citizens, these people, wouldn't know who to contact or how to contact the proper people to deliver the aid that they had raised for them. And that I did not believe it was violating the law if our people who knew, had the answer to those questions, would tell them, inform them as to how they could make contact.

But, again, I emphasized no solicitation. We were not going to go out and try to solicit groups to do this. And I suggested at the time that it wouldn't be against the law if we had an opportunity to mention to some of our democratic allies that they should have the same interest that we had with regard to the freedom fighters. But, again, as I say, always emphasized within the law. .

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But from the very beginning we all had to battle and fight to get any funding from Congress for the freedom fighters, and finally then they shut it off entirely.

Q. And I guess you had concerns, did you not, at that time that Congress was going to delay. If it were _

A. Yes.

Q. _ going to give any funding to the administration for the Contras or the freedom fighters, it was going to be delayed even more? Did you have concerns about that?

A. We were always concerned, yes.

Q. Did you and Admiral (John) Poindexter discuss any actions that you should take with regard to Congress on getting this funding that you can think of?

A. I can't think of anything more than just encouraging them to carry the battle to them.

Q. To carry the battle to _ I am sorry.

A. To the Congress about the need and the very definite need for continued help for these other countries down there.

Q. And if you were not _ if were not able to get any money from Congress in that spring of '86, what were you prepared to do? To somehow do it anyway?

A. Well, no. To find whatever way we could keep them in existence.

Q. And by that you are referring now once again to _

A. To the Contras.

Q. _ the third countries or private individuals?

A. Yes. Them and the refugees. Their families were being _ had to be taken care of while they were out there in the field and all.

Q. .

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. Mr. President, do you know who Oliver North is?

A. Yes.

Q. Could you please describe to the jury what you know about Oliver North and what his job was when he was working the White House?

A. Well, he was mainly performing tasks, as I understand it, for the NSC (National Security Council), but he _ his background and record had been one of being decorated for heroism and so forth in the Vietnamese conflict, and that he had been a very bold and brave soldier _ Marine.

And _ so, he was _ it was my impression, not from any specific reports or anything, that in through all of this that he was communicating back and forth between on the need for the support of the Contras and so forth.

Q. When you say "communication back and forth between," could you be a little more explicit for the jury? Even though you and I might know _

A. Yeah.

Q. _ maybe you can explain to the jury what you are referring to?

A. Well, between the Contras and their situation and ourselves and the things that we must do for them.

Q. .

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. In 1985 and 1986, did you know _ just tell the jury generally what you knew about what Oliver North was doing with regard to helping the situation in Central America vis-a-vis the freedom fighters?

A. Well, you have to have people that can be available to make contact with the leaders of the Contras and so forth, sometimes closer than just writing a letter. And it was my feeling and my understanding _ I did not meet individually with him to any extent at all. But it was my understanding because his name would crop up in memos and so forth that that's what he was doing.

And I am trying to I think what the other angle. I know that there was another area too in which he participated. Well, for example, in the meeting with the Iranians, he was involved in that, and I think was actually there in the meetings with them. Whether all of the time or not, I am not familiar.

Q. But in addition to Colonel North's contacts with the Contras, do you know whether or not he had any contacts or made any presentations or speeches to fund-raising groups that would raise money for the Contras within the United States, the private citizens?

A. I don't know. I _ as I say, he would have been one that I cautioned that must obey the law at all times. And I had made it plain that I didn't think that we should be out there trying to persuade the people to give money, but we should offer that help to those who were doing that. That if they needed help in contacting the leadership of the Contras and so forth, that he would be the _ in charge of that.

The cross-examination that follows was conducted by Dan Webb of independent counsel Lawrence Walsh's staff.

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. On direct examination, you related to some extent that your Attorney General Ed Meese on or about November 24, 1986, after making some type of evaluation and inquiry into the Iranian arms sale initiative advised you that he had discovered that there was some Swiss bank accounts involved, and that money out of the Iran arms sales appeared to have gone in some way to assist the Contras.

Do you recall that?

A. What I testified is that that's what was being published and carried on by the press. But to this day, all I know is that some sum of money over and above the $12.2-million purchase price appeared in a Swiss bank account in which it was said that account had been used on another occasion to provide help to the Contras. And to this day, I still with all of the investigations that have been made, I still have never been given one iota of evidence as to who collected the price, who delivered the final delivery of the weapons, or what was _ whether there was ever money in that Swiss account that had been diverted someplace else. I am still waiting to find those things out and have never found them out.

Q. And at the time that the Iran initiative was ongoing, were you aware that money was being diverted away from the Iranian arms sales and diverted over to aid the Contras? Were you aware of that?

A. No, I wasn't. I was only aware finally that we got our 12-million two.

Q. .

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. Had you approved or authorized that diversion while you were President of the United States?

A. May I simply point out that I had no knowledge then or now that there had been a diversion, and I never used the term. And all I knew was that there was some money that came from some place in another account, and that the appearance was that it might have been a part of the negotiated sale. And to this day, I don't have any information or knowledge that that wasn't the total amount that _ or that there was a diversion.

Q. .

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. To the extent that there was in fact a diversion of proceeds, did you in any way approve or authorize that while you were President of the United States?

A. For heaven's sake, no. And when I was once asked about that extra money and said if it was an added sum to the purchase price, what would I do, I said I would have given it back.

Q. At any time, sir, while you were president, did you ever approve or give authority to John Poindexter to obstruct or impede any congressional committee inquiry into events relating to the Iran-Contra controversy?

A. No, I don't _

Q. And at any time did you ever approve or give authority to John Poindexter to make any false or misleading statements to any congressional committee regarding events related to the Iran-Contra controversy?

A. No. And I don't think any false statements were made.

Q. .

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. at any time, did John Poindexter ever tell you that he had plans to make or cause others to make any false or misleading statements to any congressional committees regarding events related to the Iran-Contra affair?

A. There was never any such thing that he ever said to me that was false or misleading. .

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Q. Mr. President, did you ever authorize Oliver North or the National Security Council to use Richard Secord or Albert Hakim to assist in providing financial and military support for the Contras?

A. No. I had heard reports about them in connection with some of the private groups that were trying to reach the Contras with aid and so forth. I knew very little about either one of them or _ but I had heard their names connected with such things.

Q. .

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. Do you recall an incident occurring involving a pilot named Gene Hasenfus that was shot down over Nicaragua carrying arms to the Contras?

A. I have a memory of a plane that was shot down, and that one of the people who turned out unhurt but all right was an American citizen. And I had no knowledge that he was involved in any way, nor do I recall his indicating that he was in _ of having anything to do with the government and our program, but there he was and, apparently, a prisoner.

Q. And my question to you is: Do you recall who the first person was in government who told you that Gene Hasenfus, who was shot down over Nicaragua, had no connection to the United States government or the National Security Council? Do you know who told you that?

A. I do not recall who told me that, but that was the information that I had. .

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Q. Mr. President, when your Tower Commission reported back to you in March of 1987, did the Tower Commission not tell you, Mr. President, Oliver North and your National Security Council were involved in 1985 and 1986 in assisting the Contras militarily and paramilitarily? Do you recall that being told to you by your Tower Commission?

A. I don't recall that, and I can only tell you _

Q. I will try to _

A. _ that my interest in that commission was to find out the thing that I still do not know, and that was how did there turn out to be more money than the 12.2-million for the TOW tank missiles, who delivered and who _ obviously, it seemed to me that someone must have raised the price for those, but that was never found out. I still do not know.

And then to talk as they do about a diversion of money that was found in that Swiss bank account, I have no information at all that there was ever any more money than was in the account when it was found, or that any diversion to anyone had been attempted of that money .

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Q. .

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. Is it fair to say that as the year 1986 went on, you were generally aware that there were some shipments of weapons to Iran under the finding that you signed on January 17th, but you don't _ but you, yourself, are not aware of the underlying operational details?

A. No, I am not.

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