Robert ‘Bud’ McFarlane, key figure in Iran-Contra affair, dead at 84

Robert “Bud” McFarlane, the national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan who pleaded guilty to charges for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, died Thursday in Lansing, Michigan. He was 84.

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McFarlane, who lived in Washington, was visiting family in Michigan when he died, The New York Times reported. Bill Greener, a family friend, said McFarlane’s death stemmed from a previous lung condition, according to the newspaper. McFarlane’s son, Scott McFarlane, also confirmed the cause of death as a lung ailment to The Washington Post.

McFarlane pleaded guilty in 1988 to charges of withholding information from Congress in its investigation of the Iran-Contra affair, the Times reported. The Reagan administration sold arms covertly to Iran starting in 1985 to obtain the freedom of Western hostages in Lebanon. Profits from the arms sales were then secretly funneled to rebels in Nicaragua, who were trying to overthrow the country’s Sandinista regime, according to the newspaper.

McFarlane led a secret delegation to Tehran to open contact with Iranians believed to have influence with kidnappers of U.S. hostages, The Associated Press reported. He brought with him a cake and a Bible signed by Reagan.

The scheme was illegal, as Congress had imposed an arms embargo against Iran and prohibited U.S. aid to the Contras, the Times reported.

The affair unraveled after a cargo plane carrying a CIA-arranged shipment of arms was shot down on Oct. 5, 1986, by the Sandinistas, according to the newspaper.

McFarlane was taken to a Washington-area hospital in February 1987 after taking an overdose of Valium the day before he was scheduled to testify before a presidential commission, the Post reported.

He pleaded guilty in March 1988 to four misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress.

″I did indeed withhold information from the Congress,” he told reporters at the time. “I believe strongly that, throughout, my actions were motivated by what I believed to be in the foreign policy interest of the United States.″

On March 3, 1989, he received a two-year suspended sentence and was fined $5,000 for each misdemeanor count, the Post reported. He was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

President George H.W. Bush pardoned McFarlane on Dec. 24, 1992, the Times reported.

McFarlane was a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam war, the Post reported. He also was the son of a Texas congressman, William Doddridge McFarlane, who served from 1932 to 1938, according to the AP.

In the early 1970s, Robert McFarlane was a military assistant to Henry Kissinger,

After his military resignation in 1979, McFarlane served on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee and then became a counselor to Secretary of State Alexander Haig during the early years of the Reagan administration, the Post reported.