ADVANTAGES

Each of these dubious activities, both the original policies and the subsequent cover-up, in its way laid bare assumptions by key officials about the scope of presidential power. Their views would later astonish members of Congress and members of the judicial branch by their breadth. Although Reagan rarely chose to raise the constitutional question of executive branch authority directly, there were in fact attempts by, among others, Attorney General Edwin Meese and his colleagues in the Justice Department, to press their argument, which went well beyond generally accepted interpretations (Document 05). Similar notions of presidential power were apparent in the congressional select committees’ Minority Report, which was overseen by then-committee member and future Vice President Dick Cheney, and in the Justice Department’s intervention – “unprecedented” according to presiding Judge Gerhard Gesell – against the independent counsel in support of dropping key charges in the Oliver North trial. (See the discussion in Byrne, Iran-Contra, pp. 303-304, 313.) These presumptions clearly survived in the thinking of subsequent presidential administrations, particularly that of George W. Bush.

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