WASHINGTON — The Justice Department, seeking to avoid a "constitutional confrontation," asked a federal judge late Friday to delay the deadline for former President Ronald Reagan to turn over parts of his diaries dealing with the Iran-Contra scandal.
U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene had ordered Reagan to turn over by Monday portions of his personal diaries to lawyers for John M. Poindexter, who was Reagan's national security adviser when the scandal broke in November, 1986.
Poindexter faces five felony charges and is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 20.
In its motion, the Justice Department asked for more time to develop a "stipulation" of facts with independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh that could eliminate the need to introduce sensitive national security information in court. At the same time, the department said attempts to agree on a stipulation had collapsed.
Asking for more time to conduct negotiations, the government said: "We firmly believe that such an order is likely to obviate any need for the diary entries to be disclosed. The court will thereby avoid a possible constitutional confrontation and the serious potential for delay such a confrontation would cause."
Reagan has resisted attempts to require him to turn over documents or to testify at the trial of Poindexter, who told congressional investigators that he kept Reagan in the dark about many parts of the secret deals to aid the Nicaragua Contras. But Poindexter plans to argue that his actions in the scandal were authorized by Reagan.