Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Senate Panel Is Widening Its Review on Nominee to U.N.

The New York Times
April 27, 2005

Senate Panel Is Widening Its Review on Nominee to U.N.

WASHINGTON, April 26 - In a widening of the inquiry into John R. Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee intends to conduct formal interviews in the next 10 days with as many as two dozen people, Congressional officials said Tuesday.

Those to be interviewed include a former deputy director of central intelligence and a former assistant secretary of state. The two officials, John E. McLaughlin and John S. Wolf respectively, have not spoken publicly about Mr. Bolton's nomination, but both have been described by others as having clashed with him on personnel matters related to intelligence.

The list, which Democratic officials said had been broadly endorsed by Republican panel members, also included Thomas Hubbard, a former ambassador to South Korea who clashed with Mr. Bolton over a speech on North Korea.

Prospects for Mr. Bolton's nomination have appeared uncertain since last-minute qualms among some Republican senators forced the Senate committee last week to postpone a confirmation vote. On Tuesday, there were signs that the White House was stepping up its effort to rescue the nomination, with Vice President Dick Cheney placing calls to Republican senators and Mr. Bolton himself visiting Capitol Hill, apparently in a bid to shore up support. [Page A10.]

The planned interviews are to be conducted jointly by Democratic and Republican staff members. By now, the panel has conducted formal joint interviews of only six people in addition to Mr. Bolton, who testified in public on April 11, and Carl W. Ford Jr., a former head of the State Department's intelligence bureau, who testified against the nomination the next day.

The expanded questioning is an unusual approach for a committee that has already held confirmation hearings and at one point appeared to be on the verge of voting to approve the nominee.

The interviews are intended to explore allegations about Mr. Bolton's treatment of subordinates and intelligence matters that surfaced only after Mr. Bolton's daylong testimony before the panel on April 11. They will be conducted in private, and some will be conducted by telephone, but they are to be recorded by a stenographer, the congressional officials said.

The people being interviewed will not be under oath, but they will be subject to rules that prohibit misleading Congress. Transcripts of the session are to be provided to members of the committee and posted by the panel on a public Web site before it meets to vote on the nomination, in a session now scheduled for May 12, the officials said.

Republican officials said that they expected the interviews to include about two dozen people, and that the group included some who were expected to defend Mr. Bolton against some of the allegations.

The Congressional officials who agreed to discuss some of the names on the list said they could not speak for the record, but wanted to emphasize the breadth of the review the committee intends to conduct.

The Republican committee chairman, Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, and the top Democrat on the panel, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, agreed last week to complete the inquiry by May 6, allowing time for senators to review interview transcripts and other findings before the scheduled vote.

The new interviews are intended to gather more information about allegations that Mr. Bolton intimidated intelligence analysts, bullied subordinates inside and outside government, and sought to inflate assessments of efforts by Cuba, Syria and other nations to acquire dangerous weapons.

It remains unclear whether Mr. Bolton himself will be summoned back before the committee, the officials said, though they said they would allow him a second opportunity to testify if he requested it.

But they said the list of about two dozen names included some officials who would be interviewed for a second time, including Christian Westermann, the State Department's top biological weapons expert. He did not report to Mr. Bolton, but he has told the panel that Mr. Bolton sought to have him removed from his post because of a dispute related to intelligence on Cuba.

Mr. McLaughlin, the former deputy director of central intelligence, has been described by former intelligence officials as having intervened in 2002 to block another transfer sought by Mr. Bolton, involving Fulton Armstrong, then the national intelligence officer for Latin America.

Mr. Wolf, now president of the Eisenhower Fellowships in Philadelphia, served as assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation under Mr. Bolton. Among the episodes being reviewed by the Senate committee is the transfer at Mr. Bolton's behest of Rexon Ryu, a State Department official who worked for Mr. Wolf. State Department officials have said Mr. Wolf opposed the transfer as unjustifiable.

Mr. Hubbard, the former ambassador to South Korea, was sharply critical of Mr. Bolton in an interview with The New York Times that he gave several days after Mr. Bolton's public testimony on April 11. Mr. Hubbard said Mr. Bolton, in that testimony, had greatly understated Mr. Hubbard's strong opposition to language that Mr. Bolton used in a confrontational speech about North Korea in 2003.

Democrats on the committee are also considering whether to seek to interview Richard L. Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state, who has been described by State Department officials as having clashed with Mr. Bolton, Congressional officials said. But they said no final decision had been made.

The officials said they did not expect the committee to seek to interview Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, who was reported last week to have expressed reservations about Mr. Bolton's nomination in private conversations with at least two Republican senators.

It was not clear with whom Mr. Bolton met during his visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Regarding the four Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who have expressed concerns about Mr. Bolton, spokesmen for Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska all said their bosses had not met with Mr. Bolton. An aide to the fourth, Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, would not say whether Mr. Voinovich had taken part in such a meeting.