Thursday, May 26, 2005

Democrats said they will try to filibuster John R. Bolton, the president’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, if the Bush administration does not turn over two final sets of documents.

“If the administration doesn’t give us this information, then I want a 60-vote requirement here so that senators can express their views on this issue of the documentation that we need,” said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee who has been among Mr. Bolton’s strongest critics.

Republicans say there are enough votes to confirm Mr. Bolton once those objections are overcome, but they first must win a cloture vote set for this evening to stop the filibuster.

Mr. Dodd said he actually supports an up-or-down vote on Mr. Bolton, but is being forced into a filibuster as a protest against the administration.

It is the latest in a series of stumbling blocks for Mr. Bolton, whose nomination has been held up several times as Democrats and the administration butt heads over releasing records from his time as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

Mr. Dodd said he knows how a filibuster might look to voters, given how a coalition of senators headed off a showdown earlier this week on filibusters of judicial nominees, but said Democrats must demand the administration’s cooperation.

He and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, are seeking e-mails and other documents that would answer whether Mr. Bolton tried to influence intelligence analysts who were working on congressional testimony about Syria’s weapons programs.

“Did Bolton attempt to badger or change the views of intelligence officers relating to whether or not Syria had WMD at a critical juncture when you all were writing, and we were asking, is Syria next?” Mr. Biden told reporters.

Mr. Biden also wants to have access to unredacted versions of 10 intercepted foreign communications that name Americans, since Mr. Bolton sought the identities of the Americans named, and the Democrats say it could have been part of an attempt to bully intelligence analysts.

Mr. Biden said the administration has not provided any other reason for refusing to turn over the administration other than to say it’s not relevant to the investigation.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, forwarded the requests to the administration as a matter of courtesy, according to a spokesman, but Senate Republicans and the White House said enough information has already been given.

“We’ve provided the Senate with the information they need to do their job,” said Erin Healy, a White House spokeswoman. “John Bolton testified [before the Foreign Relations Committee] for more than eight hours, responded in writing to many additional questions, and the State Department has worked to provide the Senate with many additional documents as well.”

The intelligence intercepts already were provided to the top Republican and Democrat on the intelligence committee, though with the names redacted.

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the redacted documents show no indication of anything untoward, and that he didn’t think the unredacted documents would show anything more.

“I found no evidence that there was anything improper about any aspect of Mr. Bolton’s requests for minimized identities of U.S. persons,” he wrote in a letter announcing his findings.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, agreed there was nothing improper about Mr. Bolton’s request, though he said Mr. Bolton may have violated rules by revealing one of the names he had sought.

Mr. Rockefeller also said he thinks Mr. Bolton “has a history of misusing intelligence to support his policy goals.”

One Republican, Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, has said he will vote against Mr. Bolton and made his case on the Senate floor yesterday. Others are still on the fence.

Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, has not announced his support yet, apparently over his anger at plans to close Ellsworth Air Force Base in his home state.

Spokesman Kyle Downey would only say, “The senator takes Americas diplomatic posture just as seriously as he takes America’s defense posture.”

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