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House Panel Subpoenas U.S. Prosecutors

July 09, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee voted Wednesday to subpoena three Miami-based federal prosecutors in a so-far mainly secret investigation into whether Reagan Administration officials supported illegal drug and gun smuggling to benefit the Nicaraguan contras.

Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III has refused to allow the prosecutors to be questioned by subcommittee investigators in a yearlong inquiry by the panel into alleged drug smuggling, gun running and money laundering by and for the Nicaraguan rebels.

"We're looking specifically at some alleged wrongdoing on the part of the Department of Justice," subcommittee Chairman William J. Hughes (D-N. J.), told the panel. " . . . We have no other recourse at this point but to subpoena the witnesses or walk away from our constitutional responsibilities."

Said another subcommittee member, Rep. Larry Smith (D-Fla.): "We are investigating the possibility that the Justice Department impeded a criminal investigation."

Split on Party Lines

The vote by the Judiciary Committee's crime subcommittee split along party lines. Republicans opposed the subpoenas on the ground that the action would interfere with the work of the House and Senate Iran-contra committees.

But Democrats, prevailing 6 to 4, voted to compel testimony by Assistant U.S. Attys. Jeffrey Feldman, David Leiwant and Lawrence Sharf. All three prosecutors are assigned to the Miami-based Southern District of Florida.

Hughes said the prosecutors would be asked about allegations that top Justice Department officials--possibly acting on White House orders--put an end to a 1985 gun-running investigation.

Hughes said the investigation had uncovered evidence that weapons were illegally shipped from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to contra bases in Central America. He said Feldman recommended convening a grand jury in the case last year, a recommendation he later withdrew.

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