WASHINGTON — President Reagan, told that his brother believes he arranged the diversion of profits from the Iran arms sales to the contras, said today, "I'll skin him."
Reagan made the comment to journalists allowed to watch the opening of a session with conservative Republican senators.
J. Neil Reagan said in a published interview that he believes Congress' refusal to approve aid for the Nicaraguan rebels prompted the President to arrange the diversion.
"My brother said that?" Reagan responded with a look of wonder when told of Neil Reagan's comments.
When told by a journalist that Neil Reagan said he thought the President had arranged the diversion because, his brother believes, "there's more than one way to skin a cat," Reagan shot back: "I'll skin him."
Eruption of Laughter
The group erupted in laughter, and Reagan chuckled along with his guests.
In his speech Wednesday night on the Iran-contra affair, the President said he knew nothing of the skimming of profits from the arms sales.
The President's brother, a 78-year-old retired advertising executive, made his comments to the Citizen, a weekly San Diego newspaper, which published the story Wednesday.
"He went to Congress and asked Congress for the money and was turned down. So knowing this, I bet he just went back to his office and said, 'There's more than one way to skin a cat. Get ahold of those guys down in Iran and see if they want some armaments.' Then, he was under no obligation to go to anyone and say, 'Can I have a couple of bucks for the contras,' " Neil Reagan was quoted as saying.
The brother also said he doesn't think the President is concerned about the criticism over his handling of the Iran-contra scandal.
'Not Chewing Fingernails Off'
"I know him well enough to know that he's not there chewing his fingernails off," Neil Reagan said. "I guarantee you that I'm doing more worrying about paying the next income tax payment than he is worrying about what is going on in Washington."
He said he thinks that the Iran-contra affair was the result of frustration on his brother's part, but that the President is very much in control of the government.
"When they say he is forgetful, I bet he is forgetful on everything he wants to be forgetful about," he said.