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State Dept. Now Says Bolton Lied
Yahoo News/AP
Associated Press Writer
Fri Jul 29, 8:05 AM ET

WASHINGTON - 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 Thursday.

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."

Bolton, former undersecretary for arms control and international security, had no role in a separate criminal investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity, Clay said.

The reversal followed persistent Democratic attempts, led by Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del., to question Bolton's veracity just days before Bush could make Bolton's a recess appointment, meaning he could occupy the U.N. post until the end of next year when the current Congress ends.

"It seems unusual that Mr. Bolton would not remember his involvement in such a serious matter," said Biden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "In my mind, this raises more questions that need to be answered. I hope President Bush will not make the mistake of recess appointing Mr. Bolton."

Another Democrat, California Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), said a recess appointment would send "a horrible message" and called on Bush to withdraw the nomination.

For months, Democrats have prevented the Senate from confirming Bolton to the post, while demanding more information from the Bush administration on Bolton's tenure as the State Department's arms control chief. Some critics also have said Bolton is temperamentally unsuited to the diplomatic post.

Bush has said that Bolton would be ideally suited to lead an effort to overhaul the world body's bureaucracy and make it more accountable.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other officials Thursday refused to rule out a recess appointment for Bolton. "What we can't be is without leadership at the United Nations," Rice said on the PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" program.

While the State Department and criminal investigations are independent, they spring from the same source — intelligence that Iraq was trying to buy materials in Africa to produce nuclear weapons.

In the criminal probe, a federal grand jury is investigating who leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the news media. Biden had earlier asked Rice about a report that Bolton was among State undersecretaries who "gave testimony" about a classified memo that has become an important piece of evidence in the leak investigation.

Plame is the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was sent by the CIA in 2002 to check out the intelligence about Iraqi nuclear intentions. Wilson could not verify it and his public criticism of Bush's Iraq policy in July 2003 set in motion a chain of events that led to an ongoing criminal investigation and the jailing of a New York Times reporter who refused to cooperate with it.

Syndicated columnist Robert Novak, citing unidentified Bush administration officials, was the first to disclose in July 2003 that Plame worked for the CIA and suggested her husband for the Niger trip. Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper wrote a subsequent story and included her name.

It can be illegal to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA officer. Wilson has accused the White House of trying to discredit him because he accused the White House of twisting intelligence to justify an Iraq invasion.

Bush political aide Karl Rove and vice presidential chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby were among Cooper's sources, he reported following his grand jury appearance. They are among several high-ranking administration officials who have given grand jury testimony.

While Rove has not disputed that he told Cooper that Wilson's wife worked for the agency, he has insisted through his lawyer that he did not mention her by name.

Among the many mysteries in this case is that there was apparently at least one other government official who disclosed to a reporter that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Walter Pincus, a Washington Post reporter, wrote in the summer edition of the Nieman Foundation publication Nieman Reports that the official talked to him two days before Novak's column appeared.

Pincus did not disclose his source. But he said he has cooperated with prosecutors and that his source also has been interviewed.

Associated Press writers Anne Gearan, George Gedda and Liz Sidoti contributed to this report.

Headline should read "Bolton Lied to Senate" which is a felony.