WASHINGTON — As Congress released its final report on the Iran-Contra scandal today, special prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh said the study is not likely to affect his nearly year-old inquiry, which "has its own momentum now."
Walsh, who then met briefly with his federal grand jury that is expected to take criminal action against many of those involved in the scandal, said: "All of this takes time. . . . Leads have to be followed up."
Walsh said his staff won't be reading the congressional reports on the Iran-Contra affair because they contain material based on the testimony of witnesses who were given limited immunity from prosecution to appear at last summer's hearings.
He said the congressional grants of immunity have harmed his own efforts. They have "greatly increased the difficulty of our job," Walsh said.
Walsh, who talked briefly with reporters before going into the U.S. District courthouse, declined to say when his investigation would conclude. "I wouldn't want to make projections," he said. "The investigation is, of course, continuing and is unlikely to be significantly affected by the (congressional) report. It has its own momentum now."
Meese Avoids Reporters
Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III entered the jury room at 11:05 a.m., after Walsh left, and testified before the panel for about an hour and a half.
Meese, who avoided reporters, was no doubt called to explain his weekend fact-finding review that turned up the first evidence of the diversion of profits from the Iran arms sales to the Nicaraguan rebels.
Meese came under heavy criticism in the congressional report on the scandal for failing to take notes during one-on-one interviews with many of the principles after the diversion was discovered.
After the release of the exhaustive Iran-Contra report today, Democratic and Republican leaders of the congressional investigating committees each claimed that its side's view of the investigation is the "dispassionate" one.
Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), House committee chairman, said he thought that the yearlong investigation has helped restore public confidence in government because it was done in the open rather than in secret.
The report of the investigation signed by all Democrats on the House and Senate committees and by three Republican senators "is not drafted in hysterical language. It is a dispassionate, factual report," Hamilton said.
"I think ours is the dispassionate, objective analysis," said Rep. Dick Cheney of Wyoming, ranking Republican on the House committee, who appeared with Hamilton on NBC-TV's "Today" show. Cheney joined all other Republican House members and two Republican senators in a minority report, a summary of which was released Tuesday.
Cheney said in another interview on CBS-TV's "Morning News" that the majority report "overdramatized these events to hype them, to treat them as if there were some kind of grave constitutional crisis. I simply don't believe that was the case."
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate investigating committee, conceded that the committees lacked some key facts because of destruction of documents and other losses of evidence but said: "You do not have to see each grain of sand to recognize a beach. The picture presented of the Iran-Contra affair is clear."