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Democrats to Make Case Against Bolton

Times Staff Writers

On the eve of a key vote on the nomination of John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador, Senate Democrats said Wednesday that they had amassed “overwhelming evidence” in recent weeks that Bolton had stretched intelligence to fit his views, had tried to punish dissenters and had misled senators about his actions.

Republicans, who expect Bolton to win approval today in a party-line vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisted that a three-week investigation of Bolton had produced no fresh evidence that would disqualify the diplomat.

The committee meets today for the first time since a confirmation vote on Bolton was delayed last month, which sparked an effort by Democrats to scuttle the nomination and a campaign by Republicans to rescue President Bush’s choice for the U.N. post.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee chairman, said he thought the committee would approve Bolton despite Democrats’ complaints that the Bush administration had failed to provide some of the evidence requested about Bolton’s record. Bolton has served as undersecretary of State for arms control and international security since 2001.

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In addition to interviewing 31 witnesses about Bolton, other people came forward to complain about those who had testified against the nominee, Lugar said.

“This is not necessarily a free-for-all,” Lugar said. “But I would say it has been more exhaustive than any single nomination I can remember in 29 years on the committee.”

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who is on the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was the first time in his 24 years in the Senate that so many witnesses from a nominee’s party broke ranks to criticize their president’s choice.

“Bolton did things that are dangerous,” including “cooking the books on intelligence,” Dodd said. He added that he remained optimistic that wavering Republicans would vote against Bolton.

The highly partisan nomination fight, which has featured television commercials from interest groups on both sides of the debate, became more charged this week by the entry of evangelical religious groups into the political fray.

The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, which says it speaks on behalf of more than 43,000 churches, released a statement proclaiming that “the left-wing smear merchants have come up empty in their attacks against John Bolton.”

Mocking reports that Bolton had been abusive to subordinates, Sheldon complained of a “new leftist litmus test: That no Bush nominee can ever have expressed anger” toward a subordinate. “Are liberals now proposing the ‘Mr. Rogers’ litmus test for all Bush nominees?” Sheldon asked.

Committee Democrats are expected to use the five hours allotted for debate on the nomination to argue that testimony by five senior current or former State Department and CIA officials, as well as e-mails and other documents, contradict Bolton’s sworn testimony.

Bolton testified repeatedly that he did not try to have intelligence analysts or other officials who disagreed with him fired.

John S. Wolf, a former assistant secretary of State for nonproliferation, told committee investigators that Bolton had sought the ouster of three officials in Wolf’s department.

Wolf said he refused to dismiss them because “we don’t transfer or try to fire people for their views.”

One of the three employees was former State Department official Rexon Ryu. Bolton stopped a promotion for Ryu after the two disagreed. Wolf said he helped Ryu find a job in another part of the State Department.

Ryu now works for Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and was not interviewed by the committee.

Wolf did not name the other two employees that Bolton “wanted out” because they were “not providing diligent service.” But Wolf said in his interview with the committee that his view was that Bolton “didn’t agree with the views they were expressing.”

Bolton also testified that he had never sought to have a fourth State Department intelligence analyst, Christian Westermann, removed from his job. Four of Westermann’s superiors told the committee that Bolton had sought to remove the analyst.

Bolton testified as well that he did not seek the ouster of the CIA’s national intelligence officer for Latin America over a clash of views about Cuba’s biological weapons programs.

But five intelligence officials -- including former CIA Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin and former National Intelligence Council Chairman Robert L. Hutchings -- said that Bolton had asked that the officer be fired, records released by the committee showed.

Despite the exhaustive investigation, some questions remained unanswered Wednesday. Among them was why Bolton sought the disclosure of the names of U.S. officials whose conversations with foreign officials were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Bolton had requested that the names of the Americans in 10 such intercepts be declassified. Committee Democrats wanted to know whether Bolton was checking up on the conversations of U.S. officials with whom he disagreed.

The National Security Agency has not released the information, and committee aides said they had received no explanation why.

The State Department released documents concerning speeches and testimony planned by Bolton in 2002 and 2003 on Syria’s weapons. The testimony was delayed for two months, allegedly because of disagreements within the administration over what Bolton intended to say.

Hutchings told the committee that Bolton’s first draft “struck me as going well beyond ... where the evidence would legitimately take us.”

Democratic committee staffers also sought the draft testimony and internal commentary, but the State Department refused, saying that to turn over such documents would have a “chilling effect” on future internal debate.

Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) called the Democrats’ allegations against Bolton weak, and said the three-week delay in the confirmation to allow more time for investigation had produced “very little corroboration” that Bolton had bullied subordinates, had sought to have analysts who disputed his views fired, or had attempted to slant intelligence.

Two wavering Republican senators said Wednesday that they were inclined to vote for Bolton, but would listen to today’s debate before making up their minds.

Hagel, one of the undecided Republicans, declined to say whether he had learned anything new from the investigation.

Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said he saw no evidence that Bolton had lied.


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