TWN has just learned from a senior level source that former Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation John Wolf has been interviewed by Republican and Democrat staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and validated that John Bolton demonstrated patterned and frequent vindictive behavior towards numerous subordinates at the State Department.
The staff members also spoke with Ambassador Tom Hubbard, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, who was mentioned during the testimony provided by John Bolton at his first day of confirmation hearings.
Transcripts of the interviews that Committee staff had with Wolf and Hubbard will most likely be made available on Monday next week.
Here are the nuggets of what was learned:
1. John Wolf confirmed that Rexon Ryu, a State Department expert on proliferation issues in the Middle East and now a State Department detailee working in the office of Senator Chuck Hagel, suffered the determined wrath of John Bolton for many months.
In the period of February/March 2003, Bolton became convinced that Ryu — whom John Wolf described as one of the most capable, competent and insightful staff in that department — was “duplicitous.”
2. Rexon Ryu had apparently not delivered to Bolton’s office a cable that Bolton wanted. TWN does not know what the cable dealt with, but does know that John Wolf investigated and determined that any failure to comply with instructions from Bolton was inadvertent and that no intentional misdeed was done by Ryu. Wolf said that “there was nothing behind this (incident).” In fact, Wolf underscored that Ryu was exceptionally dependable.
3. Over what Wolf considered to be the most minor of infractions, if that, Bolton’s fury at Rexon Ryu simmered for months when Bolton went out of his way months later to deny a high profile assignment slated for Rexon Ryu to work on a G-8 Summit meeting. Wolf was astonished by the fact that several months had passed between the cable mishap and the opportunity for Ryu to serve in a different position that Bolton had to go out of his way to block.
4. Wolf disclosed two other incidents in which Bolton — for undisclosed reasons — sought to “discipline” (the implication here is “fire” or “remove from portfolio”) two other individuals. Wolf refused to identify the individuals or specifically highlight the circumstances other than to say that Wolf protected these two individuals from Bolton’s punitive reach. Wolf also stated that in his considered and very well informed assessment, the two individuals whom Bolton wanted removed were not under fire for anything that they did — but rather for “policy differences.” Bolton argued at the time that these two individuals were not “diligent,” but Wolf saw this as punishment for alternative views and for “daring to differ.”
5. Wolf stated that the Undersecretary was completely “uninterested” in and not willing to entertain alternative policy views.
6. There is speculation that the reason Wolf would not identify the two individuals is that they may be working in sensitive posts inside the State Department at this time and that Wolf and these individuals fear the possibility of retribution — even at this point. Another possibility exists that Wolf protected these individuals and buffered them from direct exposure to Bolton’s wrath and intent.
7. With regard to Tom Hubbard, Hubbard decided on his own to talk to the Republican staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, bypassing the Democratic staff members because of a personal assumption that the Democrats were predisposed to oppose John Bolton and would not be under any illusions about Mr. Bolton. Thus, there was no attempt by Republican staff members to interview Hubbard without Minority staff present.
8. Hubbard wanted to remove any impression from the minds of Committee staff and relevant Republican Senators of the Committee that he “cleared on, approved, or liked any aspect” of the controversial speech presented by John Bolton in Seoul on July 31, 2003. In fact, Hubbard said that he felt that the speech was “counterproductive to the President’s policy of a peaceful, effective, and completely verifiable outcome with the North Koreans” over that nation’s nuclear weapons program.
9. Hubbard stated that he came forward on his own to make the case clear in case any might have gotten the “impression from John Bolton’s testimony” that he was supportive of Bolton’s policy positions or of the speech itself. He wanted to “remove” any impression of support or concurrence with Bolton’s actions or statements.
I want to remind readers that John Bolton emphatically denied harrassing or abusing staff and that he denied clashing with individuals over intelligence estimates. Bolton said he never tried to have anyone fired. John Bolton lied.
Whereas Lincoln Chafee said that the “Christian Westermann” case — testified to quite dramatically by former Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research Carl Ford, a heavyweight Republican lobbyist in D.C. — did not demonstrate a pattern, it is quite clear that an undeniable pattern is evident now.
Rexon Ryu was harrassed months after a minor incident by Bolton.
According to Wolf, two other staff members had to be protected by John Wolf or they would have been “disciplined” and removed from their positions.
There is also one other case of a senior level State Department official whom Bolton engaged in serious abusive and harmful tactics against. This individual is considering coming forward, and all I can say is that the case is complicated and not reportable yet — other than that another serious matter at higher levels in the State Department is developing.
This is serious, major news. I don’t believe that Lincoln Chafee or Chuck Hagel could in good conscience vote for John Bolton after reading the interviews with John Wolf.
And frankly, if the possible “senior level case” does step forward, I think that Lisa Murkowski is a “No” vote also; but that’s still just a hypothetical.
And for all those who think that they know which way Voinovich is going, I’ve been assured that he is the most independent guy in the Senate and doesn’t really give a damn what George Bush or Dick Cheney think when it comes to matters of ethics in government. My bet is Voinovich is the kind of guy to stand up and do the right thing at the “profiles in courage” moment.
I’m actually feeling quite upbeat about matters and very much look forward to hearing President Bush, yet again, reiterate his support for John Bolton.
We are ready to fight this out, and those Republicans and Democrats that don’t want to have this disagreeable and inappropriate candidate for the U.N. Ambassadorship rammed down our throats are the ones on the high road.
More to come shortly.
— Steve Clemons