After six years of magic, President Reagan broke the spell. By deceiving the nation, he and those around him badly damaged his presidency. This traumatic tale is still unfolding, with no end in sight. This is how it developed.
Here is a summary of the investigations underway in the Iranian arms deal:
Justice Department. After Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III found "gaps" in accounts by Administration officials of Iranian arms sales, he got President Reagan's support for a "fact-finding review." After Meese said he discovered that profits from the arms sales had been diverted to contras , the Justice Department, which Meese heads, launched its investigation on Nov. 25.
Independent Counsel. With critics charging that the Administration could not investigate itself, Meese announced on Dec. 2 that he would seek an independent counsel. On Dec. 19, the court appointed Lawrence E. Walsh, 74, former federal judge and deputy attorney general. Walsh took over from the Justice Department the investigation of the arms sales and the diversion of profits. He was given a broader mandate by the courts than Meese had sought to investigate related matters, including private funding of the contras. His probe is expected to take months.
Tower Commission. President Reagan appointed former Sen. John Tower (R-Tex.) on Dec. 1 to head a three-man inquiry into whether the White House National Security Council staff, which advises the President, should be allowed to conduct such operations as the Iranian arms deals. Other members are former Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Me.), secretary of state in the Carter Administration, and Brent Scowcroft, President Gerald R. Ford's national security adviser. The commission expects to complete its work on Jan. 29.