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June 23, 2017

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Lawrence Walsh, Iran-Contra prosecutor, dies aged 102

WASHINGTON--Lawrence E. Walsh, the special prosecutor who spent six years investigating misconduct by President Ronald Reagan administration officials in the Iran-Contra affair, has died. He was 102.

He died Wednesday at his home in Oklahoma City following a brief illness, according to his family.

In a distinguished legal career, Walsh was a highly successful Wall Street lawyer who served as a federal judge, president of the American Bar Association and as the No. 2 official at the Justice Department in the Eisenhower administration.

But the highest profile work of his life was as a court-appointed independent counsel in the Iran-Contra controversy, when he relentlessly pursued evidence of wrongdoing in an investigation that cost US$47 million. Walsh's detractors said the investigation was a clear case of prosecutorial abuse.

The drama of Iran-Contra paled in comparison with the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard M. Nixon. But both scandals were Washington spectacles: a political collision of the executive and legislative branches of government, televised congressional hearings, a presidency in peril, an alleged criminal cover-up and a series of criminal prosecutions that were, in the Iran-Contra affair, all overseen by Walsh.

"I found myself at the center of a constitutional maelstrom," Walsh recalled in his 1997 book, "Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up."

"While struggling to learn the truth and unravel a willful cover-up that extended all the way to the Oval Office, my staff and I had to fend off attacks from members of Congress and the president's Cabinet and to break through the barriers erected by the national security community," Walsh wrote.

Iran-Contra had its roots in two covert operations directed from the Reagan White House. In both, Congress was kept in the dark.

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