Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff have a nice overview on how the NSA intercepts controversy is surfacing like a semi-concealed submarine in the Bolton debate.
This story has been percolating for weeks, but few have serious journalists have looked at the triple layer chess confrontation that is being waged by multiple players in this process.
On one front, the White House has defied Senate Foreign Relations Committee CHAIRMAN Richard Lugar — a Republican and supporter of Bolton — on his request for the NSA intercepts.
On another, John Negroponte flipped off Senator Biden by stating that to get information on the NSA intercepts, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would have to grovel before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for further information.
On yet another front, Senator Pat Roberts prevented Senators Lugar and Biden from attending the NSA intercepts briefing two and a half weeks ago given by Deputy Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden.
But today, finally, these battles have erupted and have had political impact — though all of this was brewing for a very long time with little reporting.
Isikoff and Hosenball report that because of the failure of the administration to comply with Senate evidence requests, the Bolton opposition may appeal for and actually get yet another delay on the Bolton vote.
This would be useful as there is more on the Bolton story to tell the nation, and a few more days could be important.
From the story:
On Wednesday, the Senate opened floor debate on the Bolton nomination. But two Bolton critics on the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Dodd and ranking Democrat Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, announced that unless the administration turned over additional information about the uncensored NSA intercepts to the committee, they might insist that the Senate hold a cloture vote, which would require 60 senators to approve a motion to halt debate, before calling a final vote on Bolton’s confirmation. Several Senate Democratic aides said that they believed that Senate Republicans would have trouble finding 60 votes to cut off debate on Bolton’s nomination if the administration failed to turn over additional information.
Democratic congressional sources said that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had indicated that he was pressing the administration for more information about Bolton’s dealings with the NSA. If Bolton’s nomination does not clear the Senate this week, the earliest a final vote could be held on his nomination would be after a weeklong Memorial Day recess.
All Senators need to study the Bolton file and ask themselves whether a vote in favor of Bolton is something that he or she can strongly defend given all of the evidence that has been gathered against the nomination. Ignorance will be no excuse. Trusting the judgment of President Bush in this case will be no excuse.
A vote in favor of John Bolton — given all that we now know — is a vote of considerable consequence for any United States Senator who agrees to confirm him. It will matter. And those who fail to read the material — who just go with the pro-Bolton flow — will be faced with challenges when the opportunities present themselves.
There are no excuses good enough to support Mr. Bolton — not anymore. Not given what any reasonable person who has studied this situation knows.
— Steve Clemons