WASHINGTON — Prosecutors trying to avoid a clash over national secrets said today they will narrow the Iran-Contra indictment against former National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter, while Poindexter's lawyer said he will try to force President Bush and former President Ronald Reagan to testify.
Defense attorney Richard Beckler said the government's plan to adjust but not drop a broad conspiracy charge "doesn't make any sense," but the judge said it depends on the specifics of the prosecution motion, which will not be submitted until next week.
Beckler said he wants to subpoena Reagan and Bush because Poindexter "had substantial contact with both of these individuals throughout this offense as outlined in the indictment."
Associate independent counsel Christian Mixter told U.S. District Judge Harold Greene that after the charges are narrowed, "there would be no reason to involve" Bush and Reagan in the trial.
Independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh said the prosecution will seek dismissal of theft and wire fraud charges, which deal with the diversion of Iran arms sale proceeds to the Nicaraguan rebels, and portions of the broad conspiracy charge against Poindexter.
Outside the courtroom, he indicated that the government's motion will seek to preserve portions of a wide-ranging conspiracy charge dealing with obstruction of Congress. Thus, the government appears prepared to scuttle the portion of the 38-page conspiracy count dealing with the diversion of profits to the Contras.
Walsh said he is trying to avoid the kind of protracted battle over classified material that threatened to derail the prosecution of Oliver L. North.
Convicted of 3 Felonies
North, a former Poindexter aide, was convicted of three felonies in the Iran-Contra affair and faces sentencing next Friday.
North tried unsuccessfully to require Reagan and Bush to testify at his trial, but U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell quashed subpoenas for both men. Gesell said that the trial record contained no proof that North received authorization from Reagan to engage in illegal conduct and that North failed to demonstrate that Bush, who was Reagan's vice president, had any relevant information.
However, Poindexter, unlike North, met daily with Reagan and may have more solid legal grounds for asking the former President to testify.
Beckler expressed concern to Greene that Walsh is not planning to seek dismissal of the entire conspiracy charge against Poindexter.
The lawyer suggested that Walsh "thinks he may be solving" problems but that his move "doesn't make any sense."
Greene responded that if Walsh decides to drop 5% of the conspiracy count, then "we have a big problem" concerning the use of classified information. But if Walsh seeks dismissal of 95% of that count, there will not be a big problem, the judge added.