TWN has talked with a number of leading Senate players in the Bolton battle today, and the general response that Senate Dems have for Bill Frist’s Bolton press conference are the following:
1. Senator Frist has the story “exactly backwards.” The only way the “goal posts” have been moved is in the direction of the administration.
2. The three outstanding document requests each go back at least six weeks — all of them made in April 2005. Nothing has been added to these requests. No one has repeatedly asked for more information. To the contrary, the Senators making requests have narrowed the requests on Syria and the NSA intercepts to be accommodating — even though the Senate is fully entitled to all the information requested.
The Administration has never claimed “executive privilege” and has offered no legitimate rationale for not providing this material.
3. The request for the NSA intercepts was made by Senator Dodd orally on April 11 at Mr. Bolton’s hearing and then in writing a few days later. The administration has stonewalled ever since.
The administration has not explained — because there is no explanation — how it is that Mr. Bolton and his staff could see the names but Senators Lugar, Biden, Roberts and Rockefeller could not. Roberts and Rockefeller were ultimately shown the intercepts, but with the names blacked out. Lugar and Biden have not even been shown the intercepts, much less the names.
Despite this ongoing stonewalling by the administration, in an effort to move this matter forward, Senators Biden and Dodd offered to drop their legitimate request to see the names and instead to provide a list of names of concern for the administration to compare to the names on the intercepts — a process that would probably take about 20 minutes.
4. If there is overlap between the list submitted by the Senators Biden and Dodd and the intercepts, the Senate would need to explore the issue further. If no overlap, these Senators would consider this part of the request closed. The administration has refused even this compromise.
5. The request for the information about the Syria testimony was made in writing on April 28. The only change to that request was by Senator Biden to narrow it in an effort to be accommodating.
6. Both Senators Frist and McConnell are on record as saying a filibuster for the purposes of getting information is legitimate.
Senator McCain also put holds on several Bush administration nominees — and ultimately blocked the appointment of Department of Defense official Michael Wynne because of evidence requests related to concern about the Boeing air-tanker deal.
Those Senators leading efforts to extract this information on John Bolton have stated that as soon as the administration provides the information they have sought for more than six weeks and to which they are clearly entitled, they are ready to proceed to an up or down vote.
Sounds pretty clear to me that the White House is the one obstructing progress on getting that vacancy at the U.N. filled.
— Steve Clemons