I’m on the road right now, and I’m grateful to the line-up of fascinating personalities who have agreed to help step in and provide their own thinking on a wide variety of public policy questions, as well as risotto recipes.
I have been keenly interested in the question of whether John Bolton met with the grand jury or its investigators in the Valerie Plame case.
I just received this note from a TWN reader:
Last night, MSNBC reported that, contrary to the David Shuster report, Bolton did not testify before the Grand Jury. I think it was Chris Matthews who reported that Condi had sent a letter to the Senate saying that Bolton had not testified, therefore no need to amend his filing with the Senate on his UN appointment.
Others have posted the important Joe Biden letter here on the site — so I won’t repeat it. Barbara Boxer’s office was also pushing the State Department on this.
Here are some of the issues that bother me:
~ First, I’d like to hear from MSNBC’s David Schuster, with whom I spoke a couple of times, about the veracity of his sources on this. After speaking with him and other sections of MSNBC, I could “feel” their confidence in their own sources on this matter. Yes, the “unimpeachable source” line that MSNBC used sounds like a Dan Rather line, but still. . .what is up with their sources?
Second, while MSNBC — according to the TWN reader who wrote to me — states now that John Bolton did NOT meet with the Plame grand jury, is that what the State Department said?
Third, while I am on the road and have only about five minutes to survey the situation here and scribble this entry, it seems to me that the State Department stated that there is “no need for Bolton’s declaration form to be amended.” Why don’t they just respond to Biden’s question. Did Bolton meet the grand jury and/or its investigators or not? They did not answer that question directly — or at least not from my reading now of the State Department response.
Fourth, what about the State Department Inspector General investigation of the role that Bolton’s office played in developing the faulty “Niger/Uranium” fact sheet that Henry Waxman was interested in? (Look back to my past entries on this to get the material.) Did they not meet Bolton — even for a denial of involvement? Why is that not listed in the ZERO number of IG or grand jury encounters on Bolton’s declaration?
When I began to dig into this conflict between MSNBC’s report and that on CNN’s Inside Politics, I was informed by a senior-level Senate source that there is actually a definable and legal difference between (a) a compelled meeting before a grand jury when the respective individual’s lawyer is not present, and (b) a voluntary, less formal meeting with investigators on behalf of a grand jury in which an “interview” is conducted. In this latter case, the respective individual can have a lawyer present.
Although it seems fairly clear that the following language in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee questionnaire is straightforward:
Interviews — Have you 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 5 years, except routine Congressional testimony? If so, provide details.
. . .the fact is that I was told that there may be a loophole.
We are dealing with nuances and shades of gray, but this senior staff member told me that formal grand jury meetings would be required to be disclosed — but that “informal” meetings do not need to be disclosed, at least that was his unofficial interpretation provided to TWN.
John Bolton may not have met the grand jury in any form — but I am quite bothered by the comment from the State Department that his form does not need amending. That’s very legalistic — and it prompts skepticism.
There may be nothing here, but then again. . . And what about the State Department IG report highlighted by Congressman Henry Waxman. It just seems inconceivable that an IG investigation that was looking into the role of Bolton’s office in document preparation would never get a comment from Bolton.
There are things amiss.
I would love to hear from David Schuster at email@example.com if he feels like sharing more about his source’s comments on a background basis. I can’t call from where I am at the moment.
But what I see happening is that the government is parsing its words carefully — and the media is jumping to conclusions. If the State Department said that Bolton’s form does not need amending, then they are not in fact saying that he has never met with grand jury-related investigators, which may or may not be required on this Senate disclosure form.
MSNBC may be straddling both sides of this query, and I think we deserve some kind of explanation for its reporting.
We should also expect less cryptic commentary from the State Department.
More soon, I think.
— Steve Clemons