The scandal that tainted Ronald Reagan's presidency and that of his successor, George Bush, was rooted in two separate military initiatives in which Americans were not even officially involved. The first was the ongoing war between Nicaraguan rebels to overthrow their Marxist government. Though the U.S. Congress had passed the Boland Amendment in 1984 specifically outlawing the funding of the so-called Contras by any government agency, NSC staff member Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North continued to funnel money to the rebels until 1986 when the illegal activity was discovered and he was fired.
North, and the director of the NSC, John Poindexter, were both tried on charges of obstruction of justice. Both President Reagan and then-Vice President Bush denied detailed knowledge of the scheme. In what was widely seen as a cover-up, Bush in 1992 granted pardons to six officials involved in the scandal, including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who was accused of lying to Congress about his knowledge of the arms-for-hostages deals. The pardon meant that Weinberger would not have to testify, safely keeping secret the level of involvement of senior Reagan administration officials, including Bush.
It has yet to be determined whether Kenneth Starr's investigations will be praised for uncovering illegal activities or condemned as a political witch hunt. What is clear, however, is that even the most flagrant accusations against President Clinton pale in comparison to the violations of law at the hands of some of his predecessors.
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