Corrected Bolton Questionnaire Sent to Hill
WASHINGTON – A corrected version of a questionnaire putting yet another bump in the road for John Bolton's (search) nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was sent to Capitol Hill on Friday, according to State Department officials.
While Bolton has endured renewed scrutiny because of an alleged tie to the leak of a CIA officer's name, the State Department acknowledged Thursday night that President Bush's nominee did inaccurately state his role in another probe.
State Department officials said Friday that a corrected form acknowledging Bolton's 2003 interview with the department's inspector general's office has now been delivered to lawmakers.
"Mr. Bolton certainly wishes he hadn't had to resubmit the form but he would characterize it as an honest lapse in memory," said agency spokesman Sean McCormack.
The support of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not wavering in light of the inaccuracy, the spokesman said.
"We think that he's the person to go up to New York to represent the United States at the United Nations," McCormack added, insisting that, "we're still looking for an up-or-down vote on Mr. Bolton."
The U.N. General Assembly session will start the second week of September, something McCormack called an "all-hands effort" under normal circumstances. But with a aggressive agenda of U.N. reform looming large, he said, "we would all certainly benefit as a country by having Mr. Bolton up in New York working these issues on behalf of the American people."
At issue is a questionnaire Bolton filled out for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (search) during the confirmation process. A State Department spokesman on Thursday said that Bolton had in fact been questioned by the State Department inspector general, contrary to his response on the form saying he had not.
"Mr. Bolton was not interviewed as part of the [CIA leak] investigation. When Mr. Bolton completed the forms during the confirmation process, he did not recall being interviewed by the State Department's inspector general. Therefore his form as submitted was inaccurate. He will correct it," State Department spokesman Noel Clay said.
Just hours earlier, the State Department said Bolton had filled out the questionnaire truthfully and accurately.
"Mr. Bolton, as part of the nomination process, supplied an answer to the question that asked whether or not a nominee as been interviewed or asked to supply any information in connection with any administrative, including an inspector general congressional or grand jury investigation, within the past five years, except routine congressional testimony," McCormack told reporters.
"Mr. Bolton, in his response on the written paperwork, was to say 'no.' And that answer is truthful then and it remains the case now."
Bolton was interviewed by the State Department's inspector general as part of a joint investigation with the CIA into Iraq's attempts to purchase yellow-cake (search) uranium from Niger. He had not been interviewed — as of the time he filled out the questionnaire — in the investigation into who leakes CIA operative Valerie Plame's (search) name to the press, the State Department said.
The president cited the Iraq-Niger connection two years ago in his State of the Union address justifying an invasion, an assertion the administration later retracted.
In March, ranking Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman asked Rep. Christopher Shays, chairman of a House subcommittee on national security, to look at why Bolton's role in the creation of a State Department fact sheet about the bogus Iraq-Niger connection was concealed.
To read the text of Waxman's letter click here.
It is still possible that Bolton was questioned in the CIA leak probe and was truthful about that matter in the questionnaire. He submitted the questionnaire in March, and could have been approached by investigators afterwards.
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald (search) is leading the investigation into who outed Plame to reporters two years ago. A classified State Department memo from June 2003 discusses Plame's identity, and may have been how the leaker or leakers learned who she was. Bolton was then working for the State Department as undersecretary for arms control.
Fitzgerald's handling of the investigation is notable because he has cast such a wide net in questioning people. New York Times reporter Judith Miller is in jail for her refusal to answer all the grand jury's questions.
The president himself has been questioned in the probe. Former Bush adviser Karen Hughes recently filled out the same questionnaire as Bolton for her nomination to a State Department post, and she acknowledged testifying before the grand jury in the same case.
Last week, MSNBC reported that Bolton was questioned by a federal grand jury in the probe, prompting Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., to demand to know whether Bolton had filled out the committee questionnaire accurately.
To read the text of Biden's letter click here.
According to Democrats on the committee, Bolton swore in an affidavit that the questionnaire answers were all true. Earlier on Thursday, Sen. Barbara Boxer declined to state whether Bolton had responded "no" to the question about being interviewed in a probe, but said "he indicated in his form that he had not [been interviewed or asked to supply information in such proceedings]."
Boxer said she believes Fitzgerald completed interviewing witnesses by March, but that even if Bolton later cooperated, "ethics tells me you go and amend" the questionnaire.
It was unlikely the White House would weigh in before Friday morning. Bolton's nomination has been held up for months by Democrats who see him as an ill-tempered bully not fit to fill such a prestigious diplomatic post. Bush has recently indicated his willingness to resort to a recess appointment, and earlier on Thursday FOX News learned that the appointment could happen as early as next week.
Bolton was nominated in March for the U.N. post but has twice failed to win the 60 Senate votes needed to end debate and move toward final confirmation.
FOX News' Molly Henneberg, Jane Roh and Teri Schultz contributed to this report.