- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2005


John R. Bolton, President Bush’s nominee for U.N. ambassador, mistakenly told Congress he had not been interviewed or testified in any investigation over the past five years, the State Department said yesterday.

Mr. Bolton was interviewed by the State Department inspector general in 2003 as part of a joint investigation with the CIA into prewar Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials from Niger, State Department spokesman Noel Clay said.

The acknowledgement came hours after another State Department official said Mr. Bolton had answered correctly a Senate questionnaire when he wrote that he had not testified to a grand jury or been interviewed by investigators in any inquiry in the past five years.

The reversal came after persistent Democratic attempts to question Mr. Bolton’s veracity just days before Mr. Bush may use his authority to make him ambassador to the United Nations after Congress adjourns for its summer recess. For months, Democrats have prevented the Senate from confirming Mr. Bolton to the post.

“It seems unusual that Mr. Bolton would not remember his involvement in such a serious matter,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “In my mind, this raises more questions that need to be answered. I hope President Bush will not make the mistake of recess appointing Mr. Bolton.”

The new information does not change the Bush administration’s commitment to Mr. Bolton’s nomination, said a senior State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the subject.

When Mr. Bolton filled out a Senate questionnaire in March in connection with his nomination, “he didn’t recall being interviewed by the State Department’s inspector general. Therefore, his form, as submitted, was inaccurate,” Mr. Clay said. “He will correct it.”

Mr. Clay said Mr. Bolton, formerly undersecretary for arms control and international security, had no role in a separate criminal investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA official’s identity.

The response came after Mr. Biden wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserting Mr. Bolton had been interviewed and suggesting he had not been truthful in his questionnaire.

Mr. Biden learned about the interview by asking the inspector general’s office, said a Democratic committee aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to be identified in news reports.

Democrats have tried to turn up the pressure on Mr. Bolton, hoping to persuade Mr. Bush not to appoint him on a temporary basis while Congress is on its summer recess.

Miss Rice and other officials refused to rule out a recess appointment for Mr. Bolton.

“What we can’t be is without leadership at the United Nations,” Miss Rice said on the PBS’ “NewsHour.”

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