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tv   This Happened  MSNBC  September 9, 2018 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT

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journalist bob woodward joins nbc news and msnbc for his first live interviews since the release of his new book. tomorrow he joins "the today show" and tuesday he sits down for an interview with rachel maddow here on msnbc. that does it for us tonight on kasie d.c. we'll be back with you next week. for now, good night from washington. ♪ ♪ this is already the biggest political scandal in decades. >> if you do that without cause, you could be impeached. >> failure, scandal, chaos, it's all come together, people. >> it was a tale of back-room deals with a foreign adversary. >> the entire thing has been a witch hunt. >> and denials at the highest levels. >> it was absolutely no collusion. >> fake news, folks, fake news. >> welcome to what is arguably the biggest presidential scandal
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involving a foreign government since iran contra. >> it's a scandal that transfixed washington and the nation. >> the iran contra scandal. >> and it happened more than 30 years ago. >> we did not, repeat, did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages. >> it was a giant headline story. it dominated the news. >> the president personally approved in writing the sale of weapons to iran. that was a mistake. >> did you make a mistake in sending arms to iran, sir. >> no, and i'm not taking any more questions. >> money, which the u.s. had been sending to the contras, had come from iran. can this be true? >> a lot of people had a sense this is watergate 2. >> i misled the congress. >> i did as i was told. >> the buck stops here with me. >> everyone is subject to the law. including the president. and every member of the
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administration. that's the essence of democracy. ♪ ♪ >> january 20th, 1981, a little more than two weeks before his 70th birthday, ronald wilson reagan was sworn in as the 40th president of the united states. >> i, ronneald reagan do solemn swear. >> his ascendency was fuelled by waves of public anger and frustration over four years of high unemployment and run-away inflation. >> i know that many people say that president carter is doing the best he can. and maybe that's where the trouble lies, his best just isn't good enough. >> an energy crisis, fuel shortages, americans held
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hostage in iran. all of it weighed heavily on the nation. >> it is a crisis, of confidence. it's strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. >> in contrast to carter's complex appraisal, reagan offered optimism and hope. >> i believe that americans in 1980 are every bit as committed to that vision of a shining city on a hill as were those long-ago settlers. >> he was called the great communicator for his simple, direct style. >> let us pledge to each other, that we can and so help us god, we will make america great again. >> winning the hearts and votes of blue collar workers, a new and powerful coalition was born, the reagan democrats. >> the result? was a landslide, reagan won 44
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states, one of the largest margins of victory in the history of the presidency. >> a lot of democrats were appalled when he got elected, but he brought the country together, he made them care about common goals at that point. >> we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. and after all, why shouldn't we believe that? we are americans. god bless you and thank you. >> at the moment, reagan completed his inaugural address, iran freed the 52 american hostages it had held for 444 days. the release exemplified the way the new administration would do business beyond its borders. and at the heart of the president's world view, was an iron-clad stance against communism. >> testifying before the house unamerican activities committee
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investigating communism infiltration in hollywood, ronald reagan, a veteran s scrn actor. >> democracy is strong enough to stand up and fight for itself against the inroads of any ideology. >> publicly reagan testified he couldn't name any subversives in the film industry. but privately the actor sometimes referred to as t-10, in once-classified documents provided information to the fbi about suspected communists. >> reagan was a product of the cold war, he saw the world as divided between a bloc loyal to washington and another bloc loyal to moscow. >> in the traditional motion picture story, the villains are defeated and the end something happy. ky make no such promise for the picture you're about to watch and the conspiracy that is communism, is stronger, growing in the image of its leaders.
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>> the policy up until president reagan, had been to contain communism. however, president reagan not only wanted to contain it, he wanted to roll it back. >> vice admiral john poindexter played a pivotal role in executing that mission. >> i probably spent more waking hours with president reagan than his wife did. >> he was a key member of reagan's national security team. group that shared the president's deeply held beliefs. also on the team, a hard-nosed marine from the national security council, lieutenant colonel oliver north. his military code name? the hammer. >> i was very loyal to the president, loyal to me and one of the finest staff officers that's ever worked for me. >> colonel north grew up in a
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military family in upstate new york. after graduating from annapolis, in 1968, he was sent directly to vietnam to serve as a platoon commander. >> ladies and gentlemen, my introductory remarks will be a little bit longer than usual. captain oliver north, has been awarded the silver star for gallantry and a bronze star for heroic action. he is also the recipient of two purple hearts for wounds received in combat. >> everybody whoever encountered him said that he was a warrior's warrior. >> i have a lot of questions for captain north, did you ever witness the mistreatment of vietcong prisoners by either american or south vietnamese troops. >> i never witnessed a single ear being cut off, a single round being fired at a man without an rifle. a single piece of ordinance being dropped at or near a village of any type or single viflian being mall treated by
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south vietnamese or american personnel. it's that specific, sir. >> reagan saw him as almost a character stepping out from a movie screen. this was a real-life hero that reagan might have seen in movies and reagan was just taken by him. >> oliver north said to me at one point a long time ago i fought in a war that we were not allowed to win and that was vietnam. i vowed it would never, ever happen again. >> that promise would be put to the test. when america's new president guided by the hatred of communism found a threat close to home. a tiny country in central america, nicaragua. ♪ as moms, we send our kids out into the world, full of hope. and we don't want something like meningitis b getting in their way. meningococcal group b disease, or meningitis b, is real.
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on march 30th, 1981, just
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two months after taking the oath of office, ronald reagan is the target of an assassination attempt by john hinckley jr. a sinkle bullet entered his left side. after 13 days, reagan was released from the bethesda naval hospital. >> what are you going to do when you get home? >> sit down. >> mr. speaker, the president of the united states. >> four weeks after the assassination attempt the president received a hero's welcome at a joint session of congress. physically he was weakened. but politically, he was stronger than ever. >> thank you very much. >> his public approval rating soared into the 70s. virtually assuring the reagan agenda would proceed unobstructed. >> in nicaragua, the rebellion continues. >> the year before reagan's
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election socialist revolutionaries overthrew the government of samosa. the latest in a long line of u.s.-backed dictators. the rebels called themselves the sandinistas. >> reagan saw this as an attempt by international communism to spread its reach right into central america. which he saw as a direct threat to the united states. >> shortly after taking power the sandinistas in partnership to cuba and the soviet union began supporting aggression and terrorism against el salvador, honduras, costa rica and guatemala. >> the argument that president reagan made publicly again and again was the dominos will fall and before we know it, there will be communist revolutionaries in texas. >> nicaragua is just as close to miami, san antonio, san diego and tucson as those cities are to washington where we're gathered tonight.
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>> but there was scant public support for another military action, just six years removed from the debacle that was vietnam. instead reagan launched a covert operation in nicaragua, run by the c.i.a., paid for by the u.s. government and kept largely secret from the eyes and ears of congress. by early 1982, the c.i.a. had set up training camps for nicaraguan resistance fighters at military bases around the u.s. >> welcome to the united states of america. are you about to begin an intense training program. >> as your country strives to maintain peace. >> we wanted it to appear that this was a nicaraguan people that were uprising against the sandinista government. >> these right-wing counterrevolutionaries became known as the contras. >> this was the biggest c.i.a.
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paramilitary program in the history of the c.i.a. at that point. >> inevitably, reagan's covert war became national news. >> two american congressmen who visited nicaragua today charged that there's no doubt that the federal government is deeply involved in attempts to overthrow the sandinista government. >> when seen close-up, the contra's tactics were alarming. >> the contra war became quite brutal. it was a war against civilians. if there were people they thought were involved in the sandinista government, they would line them up and shoot them in front of the population. they were essentially terrorists. >> but before the contras' culture of death and
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intimidation reached the public, many in congress were finding their voice. >> we simply must not appropriate one more penny to wage a war that has turned central america into an armed camp. >> opposition to reagan's war continued to build and in october of 1984, a bill was brought to the house floor. >> the democrats who controlled the congress passed legislation forbidding the reagan administration from taking action, spending the federal government's money, over which the congress has the purse strings. >> the president of the united states did not shrug hits shoulders and say, i don't like this law. but it's the law of the land and i have to obey it. he did the opposite. he said, it's the law of the land, but i don't like it and i'm not going to obey it. >> ronald reagan's famous directive to his national security adviser was keep the contras alive, body and soul. >> so the president asked to us figure out a way to continue to support the contras, without
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using the c.i.a. and without using appropriated funds. >> their solution was -- the nsc. the national security council. they believed the precise reading of the law left the nsc exempt from restrictions. >> we decided that the nsc staff could take over the management of the contra program. >> the nsc's director of political military affairs was -- the hammer. lieutenant colonel oliver north. >> they appointed oliver north to basically be the ops manager for the entire contra war. >> he believed as passionately as ronald reagan in the cause of the contras. >> ollie north as others saw this as a great, great crusade.
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>> out of sight, down in the basement of the white house, they were conducting a secret war under the most bizarre terms. >> nicaragua, it somehow became the holy war. i'm dara khosrowsh, uber's new ceo. since joining nine months ago, my priority has been to listen to you... to cities and communities, and to my own employees. i've seen a lot of good. we've changed the way people get around. we've provided new opportunities. but moving forward, it's time to move in a new direction. and i want you to know just how excited i am, to write uber's next chapter, with you. one of our core values as a company, is to always do the right thing. and if there are times when we fall short, we commit to being open, taking responsibility for the problem, and fixing it. this begins with new leadership, and a new culture. and you're going to see improvements to our service.
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there it is. a huge victory for ronald reagan. he is 73 years old, about to enter his second term as president of the united states. >> you ain't seen nothing yet. >> in 1984, ronald reagan's second landslide was even bigger than his first. winning 49 states. it was the largest electoral vote victory in history. >> the unemployment rate in america is now lower than it was when president reagan took office. >> times are better now than they've been in quite a while. >> reagan's domestic agenda seems to deliver as promised.
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the recession was over, employment was on the rise. america was reclaiming her role as a beacon of progress and prosperity. however, the international stage was less than settled. and reagan's war in nicaragua continues. >> i've spoken recently of the freedom fighters, you know who they're fighting and why, they are the moral equal of our founding fathers, we cannot turn away from them. >> acting as the point of reagan's nicaraguan spear? oliver north. he was running the contra operation with relentless zeal. north's clandestine operation was called the enterprise. >> the enterprise was the entire network that he created to supplant the c.i.a. in running the contra war. >> since congress cut funding for the contras, the enterprise
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had to fight funds outside the government or shut down. >> the constitution is very clear that the power of the purse resides with congress. >> but that doesn't restrict the president or an administration from supporting private programs to carry out aspects of foreign policy that they feel are important. >> and in this case when congress closed the purse and said no more money for the contra war, the reagan administration decided to look for other purses anywhere they could find them. >> oliver north was an enormous attractive personality, he worked nonstop. >> he worked quietly but fiercely and didn't really care about whatever legal or red tape obstacles might be in the way. >> north sought funding from reagan's wealthiest political
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donors, inviting them to exclusive meetings. >> they had arranged to have things from ronald reagan delivered to the hotel room. make sure there was chocolates on the bed. >> the enterprise raked in millions from foreign governments. >> they got $32 million from the saudis. they got $2 million from taiwan. >> to manage the contributions and supply arms to the contras, north enlisted retired air force general richard seacourt. >> richard seacourt was an arms dealer. he claimed he was doing it for patriotic reasons. but clearly, he was out to make a profit. >> dick developed a logistics pipeline that moved military equipment and other resources to the contras in nicaragua. >> it was an octopus of a covert operations network. >> the war in nicaragua wasn't the only global concern pressing
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the administration. like his predecessor, reagan was embroiled in his own middle east hostage crisis. in lebanon, seven americans were being held by a new militant political organization known as hezboll hezbollah. >> hezbollah is a paramilitary group in lebanon that emerges pretty much as a proxy of iran. so if you're talking about hezbollah, you're talking about iran. and reagan, like everybody else, remembered very clearly how the earlier hostage crisis spelled the end of carter's presidency. >> president reagan was always anxious to try to figure out a way to get the hostages back. >> so the question becomes if you want to get the hostages out, do you deal with hezbollah, or maybe you find some sort of way to deal with iran. >> but u.s. relations with iran remain polarized since the ayatollah khamenei had come to power in 1979, six years later
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there was still no direct communication between the two countries. >> we were always looking for ways to secretly open a dialogue with the iranian government. >> one of america's closest allies, israel, suggested a plan to free the hostages and renew relations with iran. >> iran was in the middle of really tough, terrible war with iraq and they desperately needed weapons. >> since the u.s. could not be seen selling arms to iran, israel offered to act as the middle man. the prospect of opening a dialogue with iran and the ayatollah interceding with hezbollah to free the hostages intrigued the white house. >> but the scheme had a serious down side. it was against the law. the sale of arms to sponsors of
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terrorism is prohibited. >> they thought that they could laund they are a little bit by going through israel. but the law is very explicit and says you can't do it indirectly. >> the president of the united states. >> the plan also ran against reagan's own stated policy. >> america will never make concessions to terrorists. to do so would only invite more terrorism. >> however, in the gray world in which we live, it is sometimes necessary to have a public position and a secret position that may be slightly different. >> two powerful voices on reagan's national security team, secretary of state george schultz and secretary of defense casper weinberger strongly opposed the idea because of its
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illegality. >> schultz was just blistering about his opposition to this because it was contrary to the policy, clearly, not only were we dealing with terrorists, we were trying to trade. >> reagan faced a stark choice. honor his policy and the law by rejecting the plan. or take a dangerous step that might free the hostages, but in so doing, violate his oath of office. so you just walk around telling people geico
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hi i'm richard lui with your hour's top stories, les moonves is out as ceo of cbs. sexual allegations six women are making new allegations against
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moonves in an article in the "new yorker," in addition to six other women that accused moonves in another article published last month. and hurricane florence is expected to increase in the next few days and take aim at the eastern coast of the u.s. for now, back to "this happened." >> in august of 1985, americans were being held hostage by militants in the middle east. it was a crisis darkly similar to the one that plagued the presidency of jimmy carter. his successor, ronald reagan, had a plan that might free the captives. sell arms to iran. in the hope that country's supreme leader would persuade the captors to release the americans. a risky proposal that was also illegal. >> i told them we should try to
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keep it secret as long as we could. but i thought in the end, the benefits that we might achieve outweighed the risks. >> the president said i don't think i could ever forgive myself if we didn't try to get the hostages back. >> ronald reagan made a decision that would change the course of his presidency. the secret sale of arms to iran would go forward. to oversee the program, reagan turned to a trusted hand. lieutenant colonel oliver north. >> already coordinating the war in nicaragua, north became the lynchpin between the two covert operations. >> an operational level, north was everywhere. >> north oversaw two secret deliveries to iran through israel totaling more than 5 00 warheads.
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>> at that point, one hostage was released. >> i'm pleased to inform you that reverend benjamin weir, held hostage for 18 months in lebanon has now been released. >> encouraged, the president was determined to gain the release of the six remaining hostages. the missile sales continued under north. when the operation unexpectedly turned a profit, north knew where to spend the windfall. his other secret effort, the enterprise. the war in nicaragua. >> ollie recommended that we use the excess iranian money to help fund the contra program and i thought that made a lot of sense. and agreed with him. >> flush with new funds, the contra war expanded through 1986. and the death toll rose into the
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tens of thousands. >> but reagan's secret war was about to implode. >> my name is gene huffenfus and i come from wisconsin. >> on october 5, 1986, an american transport plane carrying military supplies to the contras was shot down in the mountains of nicaragua. >> there was one survivor, an american named eugene hasenfus. >> nicaraguan officials this morning continue to insist that eugene hasenfus of wisconsin is a c.i.a. agent. three others on board the plane were killed. >> they dragged him in front of world television cameras in managua where he told his account of working for the c.i.a. >> there were two cuban nationalized americans that worked for the c.i.a. that
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did -- >> it became increasingly clear this was an operation being run from the white house while they lied about it to the public and to congress. >> the people involved were not from any u.s. government agency. and c.i.a. included. >> the reagan administration lies, said by some of the senior people in the administration. >> it just didn't work, there was too much of a trail of money and documentation, that very quickly led back to the white house. >> the scandal dominated the news for the next month. >> then another seemingly unrelated revelation gained national attention. >> it is taking shape as one of the most controversial foreign policy developments of president reagan's years in office. >> it was a bombshell. the u.s. sale of missiles to iran in order to free american hostages. >> reagan's first response was to deny any connection to it. >> the charming has been made
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that the united states has shipped weapons to iran as ransom payment for the release of american hostages in lebanon. that the united states undercut its allies and secretly violated american policy against trafficking with terrorists. those charges are utterly false. >> he obfuscates and really misrepresents what he knows everything that we sold them could be put in one cargo plane and there would be plenty of room left over. >> sir, if i may, the polls show that a lot of american people just simply don't believe you. >> it was virtually pandemonium, everybody was scrambling to try to get the story straight. >> top officials in the reagan white house go into complete cover-up mode. i mean destruction of evidence. >> as desperation set in at the west wing, north scrambles to destroy all documentation of his clandestine efforts. >> oliver north decides he's going to have what he called a shredding party.
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he throws so many documents into the shredder that it jams and he has to get another shredder to continue the destruction of evidence. >> his assistant, fawn hall, stayed at his side. >> she helped north with his famous so-called shredding party. >> eventually north sets about falsifying documents to make it seem like certain things didn't happen. he enlists fawn hall to hide the real documents and ferret them out of the white house in her boots and the back of her skirt. >> but one document survived. it detailed the entire plan to divert profits from the iran missile sales to the contra war. >> november 25th was when the iran contra scandal really came together as a major scandal. >> the president is in the hall just behind us waiting for his cue to come on here in 30 seconds. with him is the secretary of
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state. >> i remember somebody said you've got to turn on the television and listen to this press conference. >> last friday after becoming concern weathered my national security apparatus had provided me with with a security or a complete factual record, i directed the attorney general to undertake a review of this matter over the weekend and report to me on monday. and this report led me to conclude that i was not fully informed on the nature of one of the activities undertaken in connection with this initiative. this action raises serious questions of propriety. >> he's very looks really shaken. ashen, really. >> although not directly involved, vice admiral john poindexter has asked to be relieved of his asinment of assistant to the president for national security affairs and return to another assignment for the navy. >> i thought the simplest thing was to resign. in hindsight i think i made a huge mistake. i should have stayed. the president had nobody to back
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him up. >> lieutenant colonel oliver north has been relieved of his duties on the national security council staff. >> in order to feed the lions of the press, the highest officials in the reagan administration have designated two scapegoats. >> it was an effort to centrally contain the scandal. blame north, blame poindexter, but not the scandal spread to reagan. >> did you make a mistake in sending arms to tehran, sir? >> no, and i'm not taking any more questions and just a second i'm going to ask attorney general meese to brief you on what we presently know of what he has found out. >> they chose to go. >> the most damaging detail had yet to be revealed, attorney general ed meese stepped to the podium. >> certain monies which were
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received in the transaction between representatives of israel and representatives of iran were taken and made available to the forces in central america. which are opposing the sandinista government there. >> the hyphen in iran-contra was revealed to the world. >> good evening, the iran affair is now a scandal. >> money from the controversial iran arms deal was secretly funneled to the contra rebels. >> who was the idiot that thought this would somehow help the security of the united states. >> the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. the president didn't even know this was going on in the basement of the white house. >> it's imperative that the president to undertake to appoint a special prosecutor. >> a lot of people had a sense that this was watergate ii. that this is a president out of
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control, breaking the law. >> the iran contra scandal launched six years of committee hearings, investigations and criminal trials. no one, including the president, was spared the closest scrutiny. >> this was a high crime and misdemeanor. there was real fear this would lead to impeachment. this is an insurance commercial.
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as the new iran contra revelations flashed across the nation's front pages, a besieged white house descended into virtual lockdown, fending off a press that was demanding every last detail of a scandal that grew almost by the day. >> can you just tell us what the secretary of state -- >> the administration illegally sold weapons to a state sponsor of terrorism and with the profits, secretly funded a
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right-wing re rebellion in nicaragua. >> there was the spector that this is reagan's watergate. reagan will have to leave office. his approval rating crashed. >> and now a joint congressional committee prepared to convene public hearings. senator george mitchell sat on the committee. >> it was by that time obvious that much of what had been said in public by the president, by members of his administration, was untrue. and our objective was to find out and lay out for all americans what had actually happened and let americans make the judgment on it. >> after months of investigation and anticipation, the congressional hearings into the iran contra affair opened this morning. >> in a packed room, on live tv, the hearings began in early may,
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1987. >> the senate select committee on secret military assist tons iran and the nicaraguan opposition will come to order. >> the enterprise's money and logistics man, richard seacord was the first to testify. >> am i correct, mr. seacord, that you were engaged in selling arms to the contras for profit? >> that's correct. >> with millions watching, a parade of witnesses began to unpack a story of global intrigue and personal malfeasance, including oliver north's loyal assistant, fawn hall. >> i believe in colonel north and i believe there must have been a good reason why he was asking me to do this. and i, i did as i was told. >> dramatic as hall's testimony was, tv ratings spiked when the committee called oliver north. >> he's got a full military uniform on, he's got the perfect
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haircut. he's got this swagger and bravado of a military man. >> do you solemnly swear that in the testimony you'ring about to give, will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god. >> i do. >> please be seated. >> he took the place by storm. >> i came here to tell you the truth. the good, the bad, and the ugly i'm here to tell it all. >> north was well-prepared, occasionally combative witness zplixt would have offered the iranians a free trip to disneyland if we could have gotten the americans home zblext challenged the questioners, put them on the defensive. >> congress is to blame because of the fickle, vacillating, unpredictable, on again/off again policy toward the nicaraguan democratic resistance. >> north has become a hero to many americans who have sent in telegrams of support. >> sock it to them. one couple even promised to name
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their next male child oliver. >> he was an actor in a role and he played it magnificently. >> i put great value on the lives of the american hostages. i worked hard to bring back as many as we could. >> a defiant north went even further. he implied the president understood every aspect of his operation, including the diverting of funds from iran to the contras. >> i sought approval of my superiors for every one of my actions. and it is well documented. i assumed that the president was aware of what i was doing and had through my superiors, approved it. i believed that the president had indeed thofrized such activity. >> if north's testimony proved credible. he almost certainly put reagan's presidency in jeopardy.
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>> but one key witness remained and his testimony turned the proceedings upside-down. >> john poindexter met with the president every day. sometimes with no one else in the room. >> did you at any time tell the president the fact that proceeds from the iranian arms sale were being used to support the can tras? >> the buck stops here with me. i made a deliberate decision not to ask the president. so i could insulate him from the decision and provide future deny ability for the president if it leaked out. >> i knew how important the contra program was to the president. if i had asked him he would have approved. but i did not ask him. >> are you saying that your decision was not to tell the
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president so that he would be able to deny that he knew of it? >> that's correct. >> had the case been made for reagan's plausible deny ability? many believe the president remained vulnerable to impeachment. g, we used to get excited about things like concert tickets or a new snowboard. matt: whoo! whoo! jen: but that all changed when we bought a house. matt: voilà! jen: matt started turning into his dad. matt: mm. that's some good mulch. ♪ i'm awake. but it was pretty nifty when jen showed me how easy it was to protect our home and auto with progressive. [ wrapper crinkling ] get this butterscotch out of here. progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents. there's quite a bit of work, 'cause this was all -- this was all stapled. but we can protect your home and auto when you bundle with us.
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but we can protect your home and auto ♪ as moms, we send our kids out into the world, full of hope. and we don't want something like meningitis b getting in their way. meningococcal group b disease, or meningitis b, is real. bexsero is a vaccine to help prevent meningitis b in 10-25 year olds. even if meningitis b is uncommon, that's not a chance we're willing to take. meningitis b is different from the meningitis most teens were probably vaccinated against when younger. we're getting the word out against meningitis b. our teens are getting bexsero. bexsero should not be given if you had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose. most common side effects are pain, redness or hardness at the injection site; muscle pain; fatigue; headache; nausea; and joint pain. bexsero may not protect all individuals. tell your healthcare professional if you're pregnant or if you have received any other meningitis b vaccines. ask your healthcare professional about the risks and benefits of bexsero
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a balanced and comprehensive document. >> six months after the hearings began. the congressional committee issued the final report. >> the president didn't faithfully execute the laws in several respects. >> the president didn't know he should have. >> you can't engage in illegal activities in direct effort to
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circumvent a law. that is on the books. >> many republicans disagreed. >> it just kills the majority to have to admit there was no smoking gun. >> i don't see criminal intent. i certainly don't see corruption. >> the parties were polar opposites. it was the beginning of the situation we have today. >> as for president reagan. a booming economy, low unemployment. and a nuclear arms summit lifted ratings back to levels. impeachment was a delicate issue. >> the democratic leadership decided specifically that they were going to steer clear of the impeaching the president of the united states. >> the leadership was not interested in looking like bad guys or looking like they're going after a popular president. >> despite the illegal missile sale to iran. and unlawfully continuing the
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war in nicaragua. the president was spared retribution. >> but if reagan was not to be held accountable, who would be? >> about 13 charges of obstruction of investigation and false statements. >> the task fell to an independent counsel. lawrence walsh brought charges against mcfar land. oliver north. and nine others. fawn hall was not charged. >> nobody really believes these people intended to be criminals. >> it reeks of politics. >> i have to believe that they're going to be found innocent. because i don't think they were guilty of law breaking or crime. >> the court of law disagreed. four years after beginning his investigation, the independent counsel won guilty verdicts against north and poindexter.
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their crimes included destroying federal documents. and lying to congress. but in the end, none of it would stick. appeals court over turned their convictions. >> totally exonerated. fully and completely. >> the legal after math of iran contra reached well beyond reagans tenure and deep into george hw bush. on christmas eve 1992, president bush with only weeks left in office, pardoned mcfar land and wine burger. the invest lasted six years and seven months. no one at the core of the national security team was ever held responsible for committing a crime. >> i cannot recall a public proceeding of any kind in my political lifetime that was more
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thoroughly infected. with perjury and false statements. than was the iran contra affair. >> in the decades since the iran contra affair, the the legacy of ronald reagan transcended any wrong doing. >> he became an icon. republicans decided they were going to turn him into essentially what john f. kennedy was for the democrats. >> the contra war ended in 1990. and today, the they rule anything r nicaragua. the last of the hostages was released in december of 1991. u.s. relations with iran remain polarized. >> i will be your senator.
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in the united states senate. >> oliver north made an unsuccessful bid for a u.s. senate seat in virginia in 1994. he remains an author and media pun dant. and the new president of the national rifle association. >> and the questions raised by the iran contra affair, about transparency, honest and accountability to congress and the public. are as vital and relevant as ever. >> whether it's the reagan administration or any administration. what's actually going on. what are they really doing? >> the president of the united states does not have the right, legally morally or otherwise to violate the law. nixon claimed he did. president reagan's defenders argued that he did. but in fact neither of them did.
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and never has any president had that power. leaks. secret tapes. special prosecutors and presidential paranoia. when i hear those words today, they have a familiar echo to me. 40 years ago i made the movie "all the president's men" about how "washington post" reporters bob woodward and carl bernstein chased the watergate story from break-in to cover-up to the first president to resign his office. the story of the scandal stayed with me. and a few years ago i produced a documentary about woodward and bernstein's detective story to uncover the truth. and it struck me as prophetic and worth repeating today. we thought watergate changed america and our political prs.

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