WASHINGTON — President Reagan brushed aside questions about U.S. dealings with Iran today as his chief of staff, Donald Regan, hinted that executive privilege might be invoked if Congress investigates the National Security Council.
Reagan met with his top advisers to discuss fallout over reported deal-making with Iran and other issues after his return from an extended stay at Camp David.
The disclosure that the meeting would take place caught some White House officials by surprise. They said the meeting was not on Reagan's official schedule.
As he returned to the White House today, Reagan refused to answer questions about Iran's role in freeing American hostages in Lebanon or rumors of a possible resignation by Secretary of State George P. Shultz. The secretary has been reported to be angered at having been bypassed in a secret Security Council operation to supply arms to Iran in exchange for release of American hostages in Lebanon.
Regan indicated that the White House might take a combative stance toward expected moves by the 100th Congress, controlled by Democrats angered by the reported contacts with Iran, to investigate the operations of the Security Council.
Asked about the prospect of having council operations come under congressional scrutiny, Regan said: "That we'll have to see. There is something as executive privilege, you know."
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the President met this morning with his top advisers in the Oval Office, although he refused to comment on the subject of the session.
Present, said Speakes, were Vice President George Bush, Shultz, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, CIA Director William Casey, Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese, Regan, and National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter.
Shultz fueled speculation that he night resign by telling reporters traveling home with him Friday from talks in Vienna that he still believed that the official U.S. policy of not negotiating for the release of hostages was the right one.
But State Department spokesman Charles Redman said today that press reports that the issue could lead to Shultz's resignation were pure speculation.
"The secretary has no plans to resign," Redman told reporters.
However, State Department officials would not rule out the possibility of a resignation after the furor over the reported Iranian arms deals dies down.