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Remarks Announcing the Review of the National Security Council's Role in the Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy

November 25, 1986

The President. Last Friday, after becoming concerned whether my national security apparatus had provided me with a security-or a complete factual record with respect to the implementation of my policy toward Iran, I directed the Attorney General [Edwin Meese III] to undertake a review of this matter over the weekend and report to me on Monday. And yesterday Secretary Meese provided me and the White House Chief of Staff [Donald T. Regan] with a report on his preliminary findings. 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.

I've just met with my national security advisers and congressional leaders to inform them of the actions that I'm taking today. Determination of the full details of this action will require further review and investigation by the Department of Justice. Looking to the future, I will appoint a Special Review Board to conduct a comprehensive review of the role and procedures of the National Security Council staff in the conduct of foreign and national security policy. I anticipate receiving the reports from the Attorney General and the Special Review Board at the earliest possible date. Upon the completion of these reports, I will share their findings and conclusions with the Congress and the American people.

Although not directly involved, Vice Admiral John Poindexter has asked to be relieved of his assignment as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and to return to another assignment in the Navy. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North [Deputy Director for Political-Military Affairs] has been relieved of his duties on the National Security Council staff.

I am deeply troubled that the implementation of a policy aimed at resolving a truly tragic situation in the Middle East has resulted in such controversy. As I've stated previously, I believe our policy goals toward Iran were well founded. However, the information brought to my attention yesterday convinced me that in one aspect implementation of that policy was seriously flawed. While I cannot reverse what has happened, I'm initiating steps, including those I've announced today, to assure that the implementation of all future foreign and national security policy initiatives will proceed only in accordance with my authorization. Over the past 6 years we've realized many foreign policy goals. I believe we can yet achieve—and I intend to pursue—the objectives on which we all agree: a safer, more secure, and stable world.

And now, I'm going to ask Attorney General Meese to brief you.

Reporter. What was the flaw?

Q. Do you still maintain you didn't make a mistake, Mr. President?

The President. Hold it.

Q. Did you make a mistake in sending arms to Tehran, sir?

The President. No, and I'm not taking any more questions. And in 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.

Q. Is anyone else going to be let go, sir?

Q. Can you tell us—did Secretary Shultz—

Q. Is anyone else going to be let go? There have been calls for—

The President. No one was let go. They chose to go.

Q. What about Secretary Shultz, Mr. President?

Q. Is Shultz going to stay, sir?

Q. How about Secretary Shultz and Mr. Regan, sir?

Q. What about Secretary Shultz, sir?

Q. Can you tell us if Secretary Shultz is going to stay?

Q. Can you give Secretary Shultz a vote of confidence if you feel that way?

The President. May I give you Attorney General Meese?

Q. And who is going to run national security?

Q. What about Shultz, sir?

Q. Why won't you say what the flaw is?

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. to reporters in the Briefing Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks Announcing the Review of the National Security Council's Role in the Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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