Thursday, April 21, 2005

Senators Want Officials' Take on Bolton

Yahoo! News
Senators Want Officials' Take on Bolton

By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON - Senators considering the nomination of John R. Bolton to be U.N. ambassador sought information Wednesday from former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin and two current intelligence officials in their review of whether Bolton abused his authority and misled a Senate committee.

Separately, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is asking the National Security Agency for details of intelligence requests made by Bolton, said Rockefeller spokeswoman Wendy Morigi.

The White House vigorously defended Bolton on Wednesday, and predicted he will be confirmed as U.N. ambassador despite cracks in support from Republican senators concerned that Bolton has a short fuse and a pattern of mistreating co-workers.

The White House also offered to arrange private meetings between Bolton and any wavering Republicans. There is no indication so far that Bolton might withdraw.

Unsubstantiated allegations of abusive personal behavior and possible instances of misuse of his government power derailed a key vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Bolton's nomination on Tuesday. A new vote is probably three weeks off, giving Democrats time to investigate the new charges and the White House time to lobby disaffected Republicans.

There are also efforts to counter the stream of allegations. The Associated Press obtained a letter from a Virginia businessman disputing a former colleague's colorful description of an irate Bolton throwing things at her and pounding on her hotel room door.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (news, bio, voting record), D-Conn., on behalf of the Foreign Relations Committee, sought information Wednesday about three meetings that were on Bolton's schedule in July 2002, with McLaughlin, a second CIA official and a National Intelligence Council official, his office said. At the time, Bolton was in the midst of a bureaucratic disagreement with a CIA analyst.

Dodd asked McLauglin and the two current officials, who were not identified, whether they met with Bolton and whether he discussed removing the analyst from his job.

Bolton told the committee last week that he never tried to get the analyst fired, and implied that he had dropped the matter quickly. The analyst was not fired.

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said government records dispute Bolton's account of a visit to the CIA, and the new inquiries are partly an attempt to find out whether Bolton lobbied top officials to get rid of the analyst.

Democrats are also seeking more information on other personnel incidents involving Bolton, that led the committee — including several Republican members — to urge a delay a vote on his nomination because of growing questions about his temperament and what they say is a pattern of punishing or pressuring underlings.

"Senate Democrats on the committee continue to bring up these allegations that are unsubstantiated, that are unfounded, that John Bolton has addressed in his testimony," before the committee, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

"I think what you're seeing is the ugly side of Washington, D.C., that people are playing politics with his nomination," McClellan said.

McClellan also called the accusations against Bolton "trumped-up" and praised the nominee as "exactly the kind of person that we need at the United Nations during this time of reform.

Bolton could return for more testimony before the committee, and other witnessed might be called in.

"The White House has to decide whether this guy is damaged goods," said Dodd. "That's the assessment I'd be making right now."

Dodd became red-faced with outrage during Tuesday's meeting over what he called Bolton's near-criminal treatment of subordinates.

It was Dodd who first raised the issue of the NSA intelligence requests. Bolton acknowledged at his hearing that he had sought names of U.S. officials whose communications were secretly recorded by the spy agency, but Democrats want to know whether Bolton was fishing for information about political or ideological opponents.

Since Bolton's sometimes testy appearance before the committee, committee staffers have learned of about a dozen instances of alleged verbal abuse to subordinates while Bolton was a government employee and in the private sector, congressional aides said.

A few of those instances came to the committee since Tuesday's hearing, they said.

Some of the allegations have become public, including a Dallas businesswoman's description of an irate Bolton yelling and chasing her through the hallways in a Moscow hotel 10 years ago. Melody Townsel told committee Democrats in a letter that Bolton's behavior was "pathological."

Townsel did not allege that Bolton sexually harassed her, and none of the other public allegations have involved that kind of behavior.

Although Biden said that other witnesses corroborate Townsel's account, a former business associate wrote to committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar (news, bio, voting record), R-Ind. on Monday to dispute it.

Jayant Kalotra, president of International Business & Technical Consultants Inc. described Townsel as a disgruntled former subcontractor whom he was forced to fire for poor performance on the contract that caused her alleged confrontation with Bolton. At the time, Bolton was a lawyer in private practice who was hired to represent the consulting firm.

"I certainly did not hear contemporaneously from any other employee in Moscow that anything occurred between Mr. Bolton and Ms. Townsel in Moscow," Kalotra wrote in a letter obtained by the AP.

"It is difficult to understand how Ms. Townsel could make such accusations with any veracity," he wrote.


Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor, Barry Schweid and Ken Guggenheim contributed to this report.