Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on the Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy

February 10, 1987

On February 4, 1987, John Tower, Chairman of the President's Special Review Board, requested that the President, acting as Commander in Chief, order Adm. John Poindexter and Lt. Col. Oliver North to appear before the Board. In a letter dated February 6, Counsel to the President Peter Wallison advised the Board that such an order would be unlawful, because it would in effect be ordering Admiral Poindexter and Colonel North to testify against themselves. The Counsel noted that North and Poindexter have a constitutional protection against self-incrimination, as well as a similar guarantee under article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In giving this response, the White House Counsel relied upon a written opinion from the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, who confirmed earlier oral advice on this matter when similar issues were raised in December. Mr. Wallison also pointed out that the President has made clear his desire that both Poindexter and North cooperate fully with all ongoing inquiries, consistent with their rights. In December the President proposed a procedure for obtaining their testimony without violating their rights against self-incrimination. He asked that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence grant limited use immunity to Poindexter and North so that the facts would be known without precluding prosecution based on other evidence.