July 27, 2005

Democrats press Rice on U.N. envoy nominee Bolton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats urged Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday to say whether U.N.
ambassador nominee John Bolton was questioned in the
investigation of the leak of the identity of CIA operative
Valerie Plame.

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are
trying to determine if Bolton answered a routine questionnaire
truthfully when he indicated he had not been interviewed or
asked to supply information for a recent grand jury

California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said Bolton, a
blunt-spoken conservative who has drawn fire for his abrasive
style, should not be sent to the U.N. post until lawmakers have
a definite answer on the veracity of his response.

Citing reports President Bush may bypass the Senate and
appoint Bolton while Congress takes its upcoming summer recess,
Boxer said, "I urge in the strongest possible way" the Senate
be allowed to continue work on the nomination.

The Senate is expected to start its monthlong recess this
weekend. Under a recess appointment, Bolton could serve only
until January 2007, when the next Congress convenes.

Democrats were responding to a report MSNBC aired last
Thursday that Bolton testified before the federal grand jury
investigating who leaked the identity of Plame.

The leak came after Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph
Wilson, accused the White House of twisting intelligence to
justify the Iraq war.

Boxer, in a conference call with reporters, said the
committee's staff tried to get an answer on Bolton from the
State Department on Monday.

She said Joseph Biden of Delaware, the committee's senior
Democrat, "kicked it up a notch" and wrote Rice on Wednesday.

On Monday, a U.S. official speaking on condition of
anonymity, told Reuters that Bolton had neither testified nor
been asked to do so before the grand jury investigating the

If Bolton was questioned in the Plame investigation after
he signed the committee affidavit in March, Boxer said he or
the administration should state that.

Bolton's nomination has been held up by accusations he
tried to manipulate intelligence and intimidated intelligence
analysts to support his hawkish views in his post as the top
U.S. diplomat for arms control.

In procedural votes in May and June, Democrats denied
Republicans the 60 votes needed from the 100-member chamber to
close debate on Bolton and move to a confirmation vote, which
would require a simple majority.