WASHINGTON – John R. Bolton (search), the embattled nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, regularly tried to set up meetings abroad with Russian, British and French officials without notifying the U.S. Embassy or the State Department, the outgoing head of the department's European bureau said Friday.
On each occasion, Bolton ultimately received permission to hold the meetings before they actually were conducted because State Department officials found out about his plans, A. Elizabeth Jones (search), assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"It is a State Department rule these meetings must be coordinated with the embassy," Jones said.
Asked if the State Department has such a rule, department spokesman Adam Ereli said, "Foreign travel is coordinated with those who it needs to be coordinated with." He said the coordination usually involves the local U.S. embassy, the State Department or both.
On Thursday, Ereli said he knew of no meetings Bolton had with foreign officials abroad without the embassy's knowledge.
"John Bolton coordinated with the proper officials in all cases that I know about," Ereli said.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (search) plans to vote on Bolton's nomination on May 12, and it is unclear whether he will be approved.
The panel's vote was abruptly postponed two weeks ago after several Republicans on the GOP-run committee said they wanted to spend more time investigating allegations that Bolton harshly treated intelligence analysts with whom he disagreed, and that he sought to exaggerate threats posed by Cuba, North Korea and other countries.
Jones, whose retirement takes effect on Saturday, said she confronted Bolton several times and told him he needed her permission or that of the embassy.
"You cannot just go in there without telling anyone," Jones said. "And we always gave him permission. But it was a struggle all the time."
Repeatedly admonished, Bolton persisted in trying to arrange meetings with Russian, French and British officials, she said.
The foreign ministries would then notify the U.S. Embassy or the State Department "and ask me what does he want," Jones said.
On all occasions, she said, permission was granted.
"But my guys would have to talk to his guys and say, 'knock it off,"' she said.
Jones, a career foreign service officer, has not been questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is interviewing former U.S. diplomats about Bolton. Some have accused him privately and in public testimony of mistreating lower-level officials.