WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III said arguments being raised over the Boland amendment in the Iran- contra affair may fall into a category of controversies that have to be resolved by the Supreme Court.
Meese referred to laws passed by Congress that restrict the power of the President in ways the President deems unconstitutional.
In an interview to be broadcast on public television today, Meese refused to comment on the Iran-contra affair and the assertion by the White House that the Boland amendment's restrictions on aid to the Nicaraguan rebels did not apply to President Reagan.
"A President is always beholden to and bound by the law," Meese said.
When asked how Reagan could then maintain that the Boland amendment did not cover him or his staff, Meese refused to comment on the specific case but spoke on the issue of restrictions on the President.
"If the Congress operated unconstitutionally, passed a law which was unconstitutional to bind the President and which would limit him in an unconstitutional manner from performing his duties under the Constitution, then that's the kind of thing that would not be binding on a President because it was not a valid law," Meese said.
"Who's going to decide that?" he was asked.
"Well, it may well be decided by the Supreme Court," Meese said.
The Boland amendment, passed in varying forms by Congress, covered the period from October, 1984, to October, 1986, and included one version that banned all contra aid and prevented the Defense Department and the CIA and other intelligence agencies from supporting forces fighting Nicaragua's Sandinista regime.
Meese, who before becoming attorney general served as White House counselor to Reagan, said it was his understanding at that time that laws passed by Congress applied to him and to the National Security Council staff.
"I really can't comment on the Boland amendment situation, but, on the broader . . . issue, Congress cannot act in a way that limits the President's constitutional powers," Meese added.
Last November, Meese made the first public disclosure that money from the sale of arms to Iran was diverted, in a covert operation directed by the National Security Council staff, to aid the contras.