Only fifteen years [after Nixon's resignation], the expectation that a president would not be prosecuted came into play ... when members of President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council ignored Congress’s 1985 prohibition on aid to the Nicaraguan Contras who were fighting against the socialist Nicaraguan government. The administration illegally sold arms to Iran and funneled the profits to the Contras.
When the story of the Iran-Contra affair broke in November 1986, government officials continued to break the law, shredding documents that Congress had subpoenaed. After fourteen administration officials were indicted and eleven convicted, the next president, George H. W. Bush, who had been Reagan’s vice president, pardoned them on the advice of his attorney general William Barr. (Yes, that William Barr.)
The independent prosecutor in the case, Lawrence Walsh, worried that the pardons weakened American democracy. They “undermine…the principle…that no man is above the law,” he said. Pardoning high-ranking officials “demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences” (emphasis added).