29 July 2005

Bye, Bye Bolton?

Conservative blogger Robert A. George made a
bold prediction last weekend:

John Bolton will never be U.S. ambassador
to the United Nations…

…Josh Marshall points out, as part of her
confirmation hearings for a State Department
public relations position, Karen Hughes was,
by law, obligated to answer a questionnaire,
that among other things, asked whether there
were any legal proceedings to which she might
be a be part of: She admitted that she had
testified before Fitzgerald's grand jury. Marshall
points out, Bolton answered "no" on the
questionnaire -- though, it turns out he also
testified before the grand jury on the contents
of the Plame memo.

If Bolton intentionally misled the Senate in his
questionnaire, he's toast.

And from today's Reuters:

John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for
U.N. ambassador, neglected to tell Congress
he had been interviewed in a government
investigation into faulty prewar intelligence
that Iraq was seeking nuclear materials in Africa,
the State Department said.

Democratic senators said the admission should
forestall Bush from using his authority to give
Bolton a temporary appointment to the U.N. post,
without Senate confirmation, when the Senate
goes on vacation in August.

Bolton was interviewed by the State Department
inspector general in 2003 as part of a joint
investigation with the CIA into prewar Iraqi
attempts to buy nuclear materials from Niger,
State Department spokesman Noel Clay said

His statement came hours after another State
Department official said Bolton had correctly
answered a Senate questionnaire when he wrote
that he had not testified to a grand jury or been
interviewed by investigators in any inquiry over
the past five years.

Clay said Bolton "didn't recall being interviewed
by the State Department's inspector general" when
he filled out the form. "Therefore, his form, as
submitted, was inaccurate," Clay said. "He will
correct it."

We already know that Bush is willing to employ leakers
of classified information. That's no biggie. So what's the
big deal about appointing a man who lied to the U.S.
Senate to U.N. ambassador?

Mr. George explained it all last week:

The key is revealed in [Steven] Clemons' latest
post: He asserts that Bolton was a major source
for NYT's Judith Miller, currently incarcerated for
refusing to surrender a source's name to the
Fitzgerald grand jury. Now, one has to toss in a
couple of caveats here: Steve, of course, has to
depend on an anonymous source that somehow
"knows" that Bolton was an anonymous source for
many of Miller's stories.

Still, bringing it all together: DC now has two
major players potentially facing legal peril, a
reporter in jail -- and the most contentious
confirmation process ever for a nominee to the
United Nations. But the link of Bolton to Miller --
and thus to the Plame-Rove story -- is what can
turn a confusing, "silly summer season" story
into Washington nuclear pyrotechnics.

The other new wild card?
SCOTUS nominee John Roberts.

His existence makes it impossible for the White
House to recess appoint Bolton: If that were to
occur, with speculation of Bolton possibly deceiving
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on top of
the fact that he might be the source that Miller is
protecting Democrats would go ballistic. Even
Democrats supporting Roberts might be inclined to
filibuster the nomination in protest.

There's no way the administration would let that
occur. Many like Bolton and feel that he is important
-- but not so important that they would let an
appointment that could only last until January 2007
endanger a lifetime appointee to the Supreme Court
and while mustering all other necessary resources on
a legal-political fight involving the president and
vice president's closest aides. Too much to handle
all at once.

Say good night, John.