WASHINGTON — Attorneys for former White House aide Oliver L. North disclosed in court Wednesday that they have subpoenaed two House members and records from three congressional committees for North's trial beginning next week on charges stemming from the Iran-Contra scandal.
However, attorneys for the House of Representatives and independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh immediately served notice they would ask a federal judge to quash the congressional subpoenas on grounds they were overly broad.
U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell indicated he would rule Friday on the subpoenas as well as on previous subpoenas served by North's lawyers on President Bush and former President Ronald Reagan. With the trial only six days away, Gesell also promised a ruling on whether Walsh will be permitted to obtain personal notebooks kept by North that may contain information about the former National Security Council aide's role in the Iranian arms case.
Barry Simon, an attorney for North, told Gesell that he is seeking testimony from two congressmen who were active in investigating North's activities. Although Simon did not name them, the two later were identified as Reps. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) and Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.). Hamilton was the chairman and McCurdy a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Gesell told Simon that possible testimony by members of Congress must be handled with "some degree of accommodation," adding that "we're not going to pull them off the floor" of Congress to appear at North's trial.
Officials said North's subpoenas were delivered last Friday--Inauguration Day--to the Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees of the House, all of which probed aspects of the Iran-Contra case before special committees of Congress conducted their own nationally televised hearings in the summer of 1987.
Will Supply Documents
Congressional lawyers said North apparently is seeking records to try to prove that the three House panels in 1985 and 1986 already knew about his efforts on behalf of the Nicaraguan Contras from other sources, making it irrelevant whether or not he misled Congress in response to questions he was asked later.
Although objecting to North's subpoenas as seeking more records than necessary, House lawyers said in their court filing that they stood ready to supply any documents or information that Gesell might determine to be relevant.
Although the central charges against North of conspiracy and theft have been dismissed because of national security problems, the retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel still faces trial on 12 lesser counts, including obstruction of congressional inquiries, obstruction of a presidential inquiry and making false statements.
Associate counsel Jeffrey Toobin told Gesell that prosecutors should be allowed to obtain personal notebooks kept by North that were revealed only in heavily edited form at the 1987 congressional hearings. The spiral notebooks are believed to contain key details about sales of U.S. arms to Iranians and the subsequent diversion of more than $14 million in profits to the Nicaraguan rebel forces.
Toobin, under questioning by the judge, acknowledged he did not know exactly what the notebooks contained but declared that "contemporaneous notes would indicate what the defendant knew and when he knew it."
Simon contended that North's handwritten notes "are not the property of the government" and should be protected from disclosure by his rights against self-incrimination. Seeming to side with North, Gesell said the government had not shown that the notes are relevant to the trial because "you can't tell me what they are."