White House signals Bolton UN appointment likely
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House gave its strongest
signal yet on Friday that President Bush will soon bypass the
Senate and appoint John Bolton to become the U.S. ambassador to
the United Nations.
Senate Democrats have stalled the nomination of Bolton, a
favorite of conservatives, over accusations he tried to
manipulate intelligence and intimidated intelligence analysts
to support his hawkish views while the top U.S. diplomat for
Bush can bypass the Senate and give Bolton a “recess
appointment” when the Senate begins its August recess this
weekend. Bolton would be able to serve until January 2007, when
a new Congress is sworn in. An announcement could come as early
as on Monday.
Asked about the possibility of a recess appointment for
Bolton, White House spokesman Scott McClellan argued that the
job needed to be filled relatively quickly.
“We need our permanent representative in place at the
United Nations at this critical time. There is an effort under
way to move forward on comprehensive reform,” he said.
“And it’s a critical time to be moving forward on this. The
United Nations will be having their General Assembly meeting in
September, and it’s important that we get our permanent
representative in place,” he said.
A recess appointment would risk the wrath of the Senate at
a time when Bush is pressing senators to support his nominee
for Supreme Court justice, John Roberts. His confirmation
hearings begin on Sept. 6.
“A recess appointment is not in the interest of the
country. Mr. Bolton does not have the full confidence of the
Senate. Sending him to the U.N. without the Senate’s approval
would send a mixed message to friend and foe alike,” said Sen.
Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat and a sharp critic of Bolton.
Thirty-five Senate Democrats and one independent sent Bush
a letter on Friday urging him to find a different U.N. envoy.
A STATE DEPARTMENT REVERSAL
Questions about Bolton surfaced anew on Thursday when the
State Department reversed itself and acknowledged that Bolton
had given Congress inaccurate information when he wrote that he
had not been questioned or provided information to jury or
government investigations in the past five years.
At first, the State Department had insisted Bolton’s answer
But it later acknowledged that Bolton had failed to tell
lawmakers that he had been interviewed as part of a State
Department-CIA joint investigation on intelligence lapses that
led to the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq tried to buy
uranium from Niger.
“When Mr. Bolton completed his form during the Senate
confirmation process he did not recall being interviewed by the
State Department inspector general. Therefore his form as
submitted was inaccurate in this regard and he will correct the
form,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
A senior State Department official called Bolton’s mistake
“an honest lapse in memory.”
“Mr. Bolton certainly wishes he had not had to resubmit the
form,” the official, who asked not to be named, said.
Another State Department official, who asked not to be
named, said 127 State Department or CIA officials were
interviewed in the Niger uranium investigation. The
investigators produced a classified 40-page report of their
findings which mentioned Bolton once, the official added.
McClellan said the White House was not concerned by the
Officials have said Bolton was not interviewed in special
prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into who leaked
the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The White House has argued that Bolton should be given an
up-or-down vote in the Senate but Democrats have blocked such a
(Additional reporting by Saul Hudson and Vicki Allen)