President Bush plans to bypass the U.S. Senate and install John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, officials said.
Bush can go around the Senate and give Bolton a “recess appointment” when the Senate begins its August recess this weekend. Bolton would be able to serve until January 2007, when a new Congress is sworn in.
Two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was Bush’s intent to make a recess appointment. An announcement could come as early as Monday.
Senate Democrats have stalled the nomination of Bolton, a favorite of conservatives, over accusations he tried to manipulate intelligence and intimidated intelligence analysts to support his hawkish views while the top U.S. diplomat for arms control.
Asked about the possibility of a recess appointment for Bolton, White House spokesman Scott McClellan argued that the job needed to be filled soon.
“We need our permanent representative in place at the United Nations at this critical time. There is an effort under way to move forward on comprehensive reform,” he said.
“And it’s a critical time to be moving forward on this. The United Nations will be having their General Assembly meeting in September, and it’s important that we get our permanent representative in place,” he said.
A recess appointment would risk the wrath of the Senate at a time when Bush is pressing senators to support his nominee for Supreme Court justice, John Roberts. His confirmation hearings begin on Sept. 6.
“A recess appointment is not in the interest of the country. Mr. Bolton does not have the full confidence of the Senate. Sending him to the U.N. without the Senate’s approval would send a mixed message to friend and foe alike,” said Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat and a sharp critic of Bolton.
Thirty-five Senate Democrats and one independent sent Bush a letter on Friday urging him to find a different U.N. envoy.
A STATE DEPARTMENT REVERSAL
Questions about Bolton surfaced anew on Thursday when the State Department reversed itself and acknowledged that Bolton had given Congress inaccurate information when he wrote that he had not been questioned or provided information to jury or government investigations in the past five years.
At first, the State Department had insisted Bolton’s answer was truthful.
But it later acknowledged that Bolton had failed to tell lawmakers that he had been interviewed as part of a State Department-CIA joint investigation on intelligence lapses that led to the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger.
“When Mr. Bolton completed his form during the Senate confirmation process he did not recall being interviewed by the State Department inspector general. Therefore his form as submitted was inaccurate in this regard and he will correct the form,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
McClellan said the White House was not concerned by the episode.
Officials have said Bolton was not interviewed in special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The White House has argued that Bolton should be given an up-or-down vote in the Senate but Democrats have blocked such a move.
(Additional reporting by Saul Hudson and Vicki Allen)