U.N. Nominee Faces New Bullying Allegations
A Texas businesswoman has written to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that John R. Bolton is unfit to serve as U.N. ambassador because he threatened, berated and harassed her in a dispute over an overseas contract.
“His behavior back in 1994 wasn’t just unforgivable, it was pathological,” wrote Melody Townsel, a businesswoman from Dallas, in a letter to the committee that was made public Saturday by Democrats who opposed Bolton’s appointment. “I cannot believe that this man is being seriously considered for any diplomatic position, let alone such a critical posting to the U.N.”
Hers is the latest account alleging that Bolton -- who faces a key committee vote Tuesday in his nomination to be United Nations ambassador -- has been rude and belligerent toward those less powerful than himself, including three intelligence analysts whose views clashed with his.
Also disclosed Saturday was the summary of a committee staff interview with a former national intelligence officer for Latin America. He said that in 2003, Bolton and another State Department official attempted to pressure him to tailor his judgment on Cuba’s biological weapons program, and that they attacked his integrity and attempted to have him transferred when he would not do so.
Both documents were released by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Bolton could not be reached directly for comment, and protocol dictates that nominees not comment publicly while the confirmation process is underway.
State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck had no immediate comment on the latest allegations. Another State Department official, who declined to be named, said the administration had checked into the allegations by Townsel and believed they were unfounded.
“This stuff just didn’t happen, as far as we know,” the official said. He did say that Bolton, a private attorney at the time, had been in Moscow, where Townsel said the incident occurred, and that Bolton was representing the interest of his clients in the deal.
The Senate committee of 10 Republicans and eight Democrats is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the Bolton nomination. But two Republicans on the panel, Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, have voiced concerns about Bolton’s character and personal behavior.
A spokesman for Chafee, Stephen Hourahan, said the senator planned to review the Townsel allegations and others Monday before deciding how to vote.
“It’s one of those tough situations. He’s keeping his ear to the ground,” Hourahan said.
A tie vote could result in the nomination going to the Senate without a recommendation, sending a signal to the full body of the committee’s reservations over Bolton’s acceptability as lead U.S. representative to the United Nations.
In a telephone interview Friday, before her letter became public, Townsel said she was a liberal Democrat who had actively opposed Bush during his reelection campaign. She said she had hesitated to make her account public because she feared she would be discredited because of her politics. But she stepped forward, she said, because she believed the way Bolton treated her was consistent with other reports about his temperament and suitability for the job.
She said she had told at least two people about the incident at the time, then tried to put it behind her. She said Saturday she was surprised to learn her memo had been released.
Biden’s office sent Townsel’s e-mail to dozens of Washington reporters on Saturday.
“It should be out there in the public domain,” said Biden spokesman Norm Kurz. “Even John Bolton said it should all be out there. And the position of all the committee members is that they are reviewing all the material, and they have between now and Tuesday to do that.”
Townsel, who runs her own communications company in Dallas, said that at the time of her encounter with Bolton, she was working for a company supervising a subcontractor of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Kyrgyzstan. Bolton was representing the subcontractor.
“He threw some things in the first meeting,” including papers and a tape dispenser, Townsel said. “He yelled and got really abusive.” When she went to her Moscow hotel room to avoid him, she said, “he proceeded to pound on my hotel door and thrust things under the door.”
In her letter to the Senate panel, Townsel wrote that she “learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has defended Bolton’s suitability for the job, saying he was a good manager.
Bolton, who since 2001 has been undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, had previously served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Other Republicans say Bolton is the kind of tough diplomat needed to reform the United Nations, and that he has become the victim of character assassination.
The Democrats’ star witness against Bolton was the State Department’s former intelligence chief, Carl W. Ford Jr., who identified himself as a conservative Republican. He testified that Bolton was a bully and “a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of a guy.”
According to testimony and interviews conducted by the committee, Bolton tried to have three intelligence analysts removed after they disagreed with him.
Ford said he refused Bolton’s request to remove biological weapons expert Christian Westermann, and testified that after a heated argument in a State Department hallway, Bolton stopped speaking to him.
In another incident, Bolton and Otto J. Reich, former assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs, asked a CIA analyst’s boss, Stuart Cohen, to remove the analyst, saying they had lost confidence in his work, Cohen and the analyst said.
After a review, Cohen found no merit to the complaint against the analyst, and CIA Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin declined to have him removed.
The third analyst, Rexon Ryu, was a State Department Middle Eastern proliferation specialist now on temporary assignment working for Hagel. Ryu was transferred from his State Department assignment at Bolton’s request.
Hagel’s support for Bolton had been seen as assured until the senator learned Friday about the transfer, according to a Hagel aide.