John Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations may face fresh obstacles in the Senate after the State Department said Bolton failed to tell lawmakers he was interviewed about faulty intelligence on Iraq.
State Department spokesman Noel Clay said yesterday that Bolton forgot about a 2003 interview by the department's inspector general, who was examining how the U.S. concluded Iraq tried to buy nuclear material from Niger, when he filled out a questionnaire for his Senate confirmation hearings.
Thirty-six senators, 35 Democrats and one Independent, sent a letter to President George W. Bush today urging him to withdraw the nomination and requesting that he not make a unilateral appointment, as permitted by the U.S. Constitution, when Congress takes a vacation break at the end of the week.
``Mr. Bolton's excuse that he `didn't recall being interviewed by the State Department's Inspector General' is simply not believable,'' the letter said....
Request for Review
Bolton, a 56-year-old former undersecretary for arms control and international security, was questioned in connection with a joint State Department-CIA probe related to alleged Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Niger. He was not a target of the investigation or accused of any wrongdoing.
The probe was requested by Senators Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the panel's ranking Democrat, according to a Senate aide familiar with the matter.
Roberts and Rockefeller wrote to the inspectors asking for an investigation into the documents and other material that Bush relied on to say in his 2003 state of the union address that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium from Africa. At least some of those documents turned out to be forged, and the administration later said the information shouldn't have been included in the speech.
The report, entitled, ``Joint Review of Alleged Attempts by Iraq to Procure Uranium from Niger'' was provided to the Intelligence Committee in September 2003. It said Bolton was interviewed by Anne Sigmund, then the acting inspector general of the State Department, the aide said.
The Iraq-Niger connection also is at the heart of a separate federal investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into who disclosed the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, who is married to former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq.
``Mr. Bolton was not interviewed as part of the Fitzgerald investigation,'' Clay said.