There are some Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who have stated that they will NOT vote to confirm John Bolton until a full investigation of his pattern of activities and views are known.
The Committee and the Senate as a whole has a responsibility to perform a vital oversight function over the Executive Branch of government. This function is vital to democracy — and while a normal “pull and tug” between branches of government is normal, the administration is undermining the Senate’s oversight function by failing to comply with requests that all acknowledge are vital and legitimate.
There are two key requests that are in limbo:
1. Ten NSA intercepts requested by John Bolton, including the names of U.S. officials whose identities had been redacted from the transcripts and then queried by Bolton
2. email traffic between CIA detailee and Bolton Chief-of-Staff Frederick Fleitz on a matter relating to a document on China proliferation questions that was prepared by the CIA and commented on by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR)
In the case of the NSA intercepts, they sit on Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte’s desk — with a recommendation for approval from the National Security Agency — waiting for the bureacratic wheels of Negroponte’s new operation to move.
There is a possibility that the protocols and process in place for managing classified material in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence may be needed for the Foreign Relations Committee Members and Senior Staff to view the intercepts. Thus, Richard Lugar has asked Senators Pat Roberts and John D. Rockefeller IV for such cooperation.
I have been told that Roberts is unlikely to strangle this request and will cooperate, but then again. . .this is a strange case — and Friday is the deadline for evidence and materials requests, under the current terms of agreement between Senators Lugar and Biden.
All bets are off if the administration fails to comply.
Senator Lugar may adopt the line that the Democrats got their time and that the vote will proceed as planned on May 12th — but the problem that causes is it forces Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander, Chuck Hagel, Lincoln Chafee, and others to vote on an incomplete record. Lugar would have to steamroll over the NSA intercepts issue as well as what might be a vital email exchange.
Senator Lugar would be adopting commitment to a calendar rather than the principles of good governance if this were the case — and TWN does not think that other Republican members of the Committee are ready to support that kind of heavy-handedness in the Committee.
So, if these two items fail to make it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by close of business on Friday, May 6th, expect to see fireworks next week.
We could even see a replay of the dynamic type of hearing last time around — but the accusation this time will be over the failure of the administration to provide the same intercept material that was discussed in the last hearing and which Senator Dodd has been requesting for weeks.
— Steve Clemons