Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska signaled Friday that his support for the nomination of John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador was wavering after new reports that Bolton ordered an intelligence analyst removed from his job.
The analyst, a State Department employee who now works on Hagel’s Senate staff, is the third intelligence analyst reported to have been threatened or intimidated by Bolton, who has served since 2001 as undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.
“Sen. Hagel is likely to be supportive [of Bolton] but he needs to be assured there are not additional serious areas of concern,” Hagel spokesman Mike Buttry said, adding that Hagel was troubled by the new information.
Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are investigating as many as five additional incidents in which Bolton’s demeanor toward State Department subordinates has been questioned, say Senate staffers from both parties. In a confirmation hearing this week, testimony indicated Bolton demanded the removal of two intelligence analysts who disagreed with him.
Amid the developments, Hagel’s remarks served as a warning that Bolton’s confirmation, which had been considered assured, could falter if Democrats succeeded in producing more evidence against Bolton.
Democrats argue that Bolton’s harsh criticisms of the United Nations and testimony that he bullied underlings make him unsuitable for the top U.N. job.
Republicans have countered that Bolton is the victim of character assassination and has the tough personality needed to reform the troubled world body.
A committee vote is scheduled for Tuesday, and the outcome is no longer guaranteed. Republicans control the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 10 to 8. The Democrats all oppose Bolton.
Until Friday, the only Republican believed to be wavering in support of President Bush’s U.N. nominee was Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who had said he was inclined to vote for Bolton but had not made up his mind.
A majority of the committee is required to recommend the nomination to the full Senate. If Chafee or Hagel switched, it would create a tie and block the nomination. The committee chairman could ask members to send the nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation, but that action also would require a majority vote.
During confirmation hearings last week, Chafee questioned whether the cases of the other two analysts reportedly assailed by Bolton represented isolated incidents, and he pointed out that neither analyst had lost his job.
Chaffee is “concerned about what he’s seen,” said the senator’s press secretary, Stephen Hourahan. “He wants to hear as much as he can” before making up his mind.
Hagel learned Thursday of the incident involving Rexon Ryu, a State Department nonproliferation analyst on temporary assignment to Hagel’s staff. Although Hagel serves on the Foreign Relations Committee and questioned Bolton during the hearings, Ryu did not tell his boss about his problems with Bolton until Ryu learned that the incident would appear in news reports.
Former U.S. officials and Senate staffers confirmed a report in the Washington Post that Ryu ran afoul of Bolton in 2003 by allegedly failing to produce a document for Bolton’s chief of staff. Bolton accused Ryu of concealing information and of insubordination.
Bolton had leveled similar charges against another State Department intelligence analyst, Christian Westermann, according to Bolton and Westermann.
A former senior State Department official described Ryu on Friday as having such a “sharp mind, good analytical skills and unimpeachable integrity” that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage took him on as a special assistant after Ryu clashed with Bolton and was transferred.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News that Bolton was “a good manager” and “a great diplomat” and urged the Senate to confirm him promptly.
The fierce fight over Bolton, who is one of the most controversial of Bush’s nominees, has many current and former State Department officials avoiding the Foreign Relations Committee and the press for fear of being caught in the partisan crossfire.
The only former State Department official to appear in front of the committee was Carl W. Ford Jr., a former assistant secretary of intelligence and research who testified that he had a heated argument with Bolton when he refused Bolton’s request to remove Westermann.
Ford described Bolton as a serial abuser of underlings and a “quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.”
One former State Department official noted that Bolton could have filed formal complaints against employees he found unsatisfactory, but he did not do so, instead telling their bosses that he had lost confidence in them.
Other former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, offered differing views about whether the reports of Bolton’s treatment of intelligence analysts or other employees was germane to his job performance at the United Nations.
“The U.N. matters and the person there is more than simply a delivery boy,” a former official said. “There’s always discretion in what an ambassador says ... and how he says it. And U.S. envoys to the U.N. can be creative and problem-solving -- or can be creative and problem-creating.”
The former official argued that an ambassador’s treatment of staff is relevant because “odds are that someone who doesn’t brook dissent is not going to be very good in what they do.”
But another former Washington insider, who dislikes Bolton, nevertheless argued that the hearings had not produced sufficient evidence against Bolton to justify rejecting the president’s choice of an envoy.
If every official who was unpleasant to staff was barred from high office, “Washington would be depopulated,” the source said.