WASHINGTON--The nation's daytime summer fireworks, the Iran-Contra hearings, came to a quiet end after a 41-day run yesterday, with none of the 29 witnesses having tied President Reagan directly to the use of arms-sales profits for the guerrillas fighting in Nicaragua.
"The president has indeed been telling the truth," said Rep. Richard Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chairman of the House committee. However, Republicans joined Democrats in a final round of speeches denouncing the secrecy and deception that brought the Reagan administration its greatest embarrassment.
"The story has now been told," said Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate committee. He made it a chilling story of a flawed policy "kept alive by a secret White House junta despite repeated warnings and signs of failure."
Reagan will deliver a speech on the Iran-Contra affair next week, on a day still unspecified, but spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the president does not intend to "go into every detail" about the testimony which was spread over three months of hearings.
"It's the overall issues involved that the president wants to address," Fitzwater said.
The rare collaboration of committees from the House and Senate will continue the rest of the month. First, they will hear testimony from three CIA officials behind closed doors, then they will draft a report on the affair.
In the meantime, independent counsel Lawrence Walsh continues his separate investigation into the possibility of criminal prosecution of some of the affair's main figures. Nine of the public witnesses at the hearings testified under grants of immunity, meaning their words cannot be used against them in a future prosecution.
While there were extraordinary revelations fromsome of the key witnesses in the nationallytelevised hearings--principally former NationalSecurity Adviser John M. Poindexter and his aide,Lt. Col. Oliver North--the basic story of thecomplicated affair remained unchanged after thehearings began on May 5:
Arms had been supplied to Iran--with Reagan'sbelated assent--in hopes ofbettering relations and obtaining that country'shelp in gaining the release of American hostagesheld in Lebanon; profits were made on the sale byprivate citizens recruited by North; without thepresident's knowledge a portion of those profitswent to buy weapons for the rebels fightingNicaragua's communist government.
The hearings, said Inouye, produced a vision of"a secret government, directed principally byNational Security Council staffers, accountable tonot a single elected official, includingapparently the president himself--a shadowygovernment with its own air force, its own navy,its own, fund-raising mechanism, and the abilityto pursue its own ideas of national interest, freefrom all checks and balances and the law itself."
Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) said that "wecannot promote democracy abroad while underminingit at home, and that is what these men did."
"There was too much secrecy and deception,"said Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), chairman of theHouse investigating committee. "The president didnot know what his own staff was doing; staff didnot keep senior officials informed; policies wereoften contradictory."
The committee leaders offered their ownsummations after the final public witness, DefenseSecretary Caspar Weinberger, testified that "theinterests of the United States were damagedoverall" by Reagan's decision to make secret armssales to Iran.
Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultzboth said they fought hard against that policy butfailed to convince the president. Weinberger saidthe way to avoid such damage in the future is "notto embark on a policy of this kind."
Rudman said selling arms to Iran in hopes of abetter relationship "was an act of folly."