WASHINGTON – Bush administration officials are growing increasingly weary of accusations about hostile behavior by John Bolton (search), President Bush's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The last salvo comes from reports about three former senior government officials interviewed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee (search) staffers and leaked to The New York Times.
"There are these press reports every day. Somebody says something that may have happened or didn't happen or could have happened," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher (search) said Tuesday.
Democrats on the committee have been investigating allegations by past coworkers and colleagues of Bolton who say that his hard-line foreign policy positions and tough talk make Bolton ill-suited for the post at the United Nations, an agency he has criticized in the past.
In the newspaper report, Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, is depicted by the officials as too aggressive or undiplomatic for the job. The claims are attributed to Thomas Hubbard, former ambassador to South Korea; John Wolf, former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation; and Alan Foley, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency's weapons proliferation center.
The article quotes transcripts taken from the committee's interviews with the three men. In them, Hubbard is quoted as saying that Bolton hung up on him after Hubbard told Bolton that he could not arrange a meeting with South Korea's then-president-elect, Roh Moon Hyun.
Hubbard said that when he told Bolton the news, Bolton then refused to meet with him. Hubbard had already told a reporter last week about his communications over the meeting, saying Bolton "hung up on me. He was very angry."
Another transcript leaked to the Times portrays an event described by Wolf about Bolton's efforts to block Rexon Ryu, a former State Department official, as a liaison to the working group that was preparing for a meeting in Sea Island, Ga. of the G-8 summit of industrialized countries that took place in 2004.
Wolf explained that Ryu and Bolton had clashed over an earlier error Ryu had made of not including in materials to Bolton a cable relating to U.N. inspections of Iraq that had failed to be delivered to Bolton during preparation of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the U.N. Security Council.
Supporters of Bolton's nomination told FOX News that Bolton never sought to get Ryu removed from his job nor did he block Ryu from attaining the position as liaison to the working group. Sources said that another individual was already serving in that capacity, working directly with Bolton, and that the undersecretary saw no need for Ryu's services.
The Times also reported that Foley remembered "being jarred" three years ago when Fred Fleitz, a fellow CIA officer on detail with Bolton's staff, called Foley and told him that Bolton thought another agency analyst "ought to be fired."
But that's not all Foley told the committee, according to the transcripts obtained by FOX News. In them, the 25-year CIA veteran said, "This wasn't why Fred called me, as I remember it. It was just something that came up in the conversation, whatever we were having.
"It was more of a kind of a casual comment that, you know, 'John's having a really difficult time with this guy, and, you know, he thinks this guy ought to be fired because of the way he's behaving.' It wasn't, you know, it wasn't, you know, 'John wants to know how do we get this guy fired.'"
Foley added that he didn't think Bolton got personally involved in most of these disputes and the arguments were mainly made by his staff. Asked about whether Bolton visited Langley to seek reprisals against the analyst, Foley told the committee he didn't remember Fleitz's indicating that Bolton had any intention of talking to his boss "or that sort of thing."
He added that far from pressuring analysts, Bolton was effusive in his praise for some of them and even took one of them on an overseas trip.
"John was very complimentary of our analysts. ... I remember he even took one of them on a trip he made abroad. ... I think he was actually quite supportive of my folks, in that he would — you know, he wanted to hear what we had to say," Foley told the staffers.
Committee Democrats announced last week that they had set a Friday deadline to collate information that could help their case against Bolton. The committee plans to vote next Thursday on Bolton's nomination and a positive referral to the full Senate would likely mean a full confirmation for Bolton to take the diplomatic post.
Democrats have tried to find information that would implicate Bolton, including threats of firing underlings who crossed him, asking for blacked-out names of U.S. officials who came up in communiques lifted by U.S. intelligence eavesdropping and telling off Melody Townsel, a former U.S. Agency for International Development worker who was traveling with Bolton 11 years ago in Moscow.
A source on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told FOX News that panel staffers conducted two more interviews on Tuesday, both with individuals from the State Department's Office of Legal Adviser. They were looking into allegations that Bolton blew up at one of them and demanded he be removed from a legal action.
Committee sources told FOX News that there's no "there there" and that Bolton took no action against the attorney, who stayed on the case.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' James Rosen.