Thirty years ago, Oliver North, the former Reagan administration official, was indicted on 16 counts for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair.
Today, in keeping with Trump-era trends, North is the new incoming president of the National Rifle Association!
But if you're under 30, you probably have no idea who this guy is or what made him so infamous. So let's review:
In the 1980s, as now, the United States was generally not on good terms with Iran. The Iranian hostage crisis was still fresh in people's memories and Republican President Ronald Reagan was going around saying things like, "America will never make concessions to terrorists."
But there on Reagan's National Security Council was United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North.
Although Iran was under an arms embargo and generally the last country the Reagan administration would publicly do anything for, North participated in a scheme to sell arms to Iran as a way of trying to gain the release of US hostages in Lebanon.
To top it off, the profits from those arm sales went to help a rebel group in Nicaragua known as the Contras—despite Congress having specifically banned US support for the Contras.
So you can imagine the hot mess that resulted when all this tumbled out.
In 1988, North was indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, among other things. By then, North had already been canned by Reagan—although North's firing hadn't stopped him and his secretary, Fawn Hall, from shredding and smuggling out incriminating government documents.
As the History Channel reminds us, even after North was kicked out of the Reagan administration, "Hall continued to sneak documents to him by stuffing them in her skirt and boots."
North was summoned before Congress amid all this and gave six days of testimony that became a summer-of-1987 blockbuster, riveting the nation at a time when there was no Twitter or Instagram to otherwise rivet people.
But! In exchange for his frank testimony before Congress, North had been granted immunity from prosecution. He was prosecuted anyway, and then in 1991 a federal court dropped all of the charges against North because witnesses in the North case said they had been influenced by his nationally-televised testimony before Congress.
"Because that testimony was given under a grant of immunity from prosecution," The New York Times reported at the time, "a divided Federal appeals court held that those who heard it and were influenced by it should not have been allowed to testify against Mr. North."
The ACLU had actually argued for this very outcome because of the immunity issue.
As Congress's Iran-Contra Report put it: "North admitted that he and other officials lied repeatedly to Congress and to the American people about the contra covert action and Iran arms sales, and that he altered and destroyed official documents. North's testimony demonstrates that he also lied to members of the executive branch, including the Attorney General, and officials of the State Department, C.I.A. and N.S.C."
And what did North do after all that?
He became a FOX News personality. Then, this week, 30 years after his indictment, he was declared by the NRA to be the "true hero and warrior for freedom" who'll now lead the American firearms lobby.