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Hagel Sees Bolton Nomination Moving Forward

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

After we spoke with him, we talked with Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who is a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The committee is scheduled to vote on the Bolton nomination on Thursday. Three weeks ago the senator told CNN that he would support Bolton's nomination if there's nothing more that comes out. He said at that time, `I have been troubled with more and more allegations, revelations coming out about his style, his method of operation.' So after three weeks, I put the question to the senator: `Are you still going to vote for him?'

Senator CHUCK HAGEL (Republican, Senate Foreign Relations Committee): I reserve the right to listen to the results of the staff inquiries and examinations and what they were able to get from those who have come forward and made serious charges against Mr. Bolton. But I do not know of anything now, but--I don't know all of it, but I do not know of anything now that would make him unqualified for that job.

SIEGEL: We heard today from former Ambassador Robert Hutchings, who was head of the National Intelligence Council, who spoke to the Foreign Relations Committee staff last Friday. And he's not saying, `I don't think the committee should confirm John Bolton,' but he's describing intelligence analysts having to, in his words, `play hardball' to speak truth to power because he thinks that's not what they wanted to hear. Are you disturbed by that, and is it disqualifying to you if Mr. Bolton was a part of that?

Sen. HAGEL: Well, again, until I know what the facts are, until I get all the specifics of not only the conversation you're talking about but others who have lodged similar complaints about Mr. Bolton's--not only his style but his responsibilities in previous jobs, then I can't respond to it. But anytime an allegation is made against any government official at a senior level regarding intelligence matters in shifting or shaping or repackaging intelligence to fit policy, then, yes, that's a big concern. But I would also say--and this does not make it right because that type of activity is always wrong. I think it's always a matter, to some extent, the degree of what happened there, and that's why it's important to get the facts. But many in this administration have been charged with that very same shaping intelligence to form to policy.

SIEGEL: In that same CNN interview that I cited earlier, you said, `We need a uniter, we need a builder, we need someone who will reach out to our friends and our allies at the United Nations.' To the extent that you've gotten a handle on Mr. Bolton's personality and his personal instincts, does that describe John Bolton to you?

Sen. HAGEL: Well, I don't think that's the real question. I think the question is: Does he see himself as a uniter and a builder, someone who can not only represent America's interests well before the United Nations but, in fact, who will participate in reforming the United Nations, in shaping and building that institution into a relevant, important institution as I think it is?

SIEGEL: What do you make of the nearly deafening silence of Colin Powell on the Bolton nomination?

Sen. HAGEL: Well, you would have to ask Colin Powell that. I don't speak for anyone except myself.

SIEGEL: You're not struck by the fact that the secretary of State who was most recently his boss is not one of those who's called for his nomination?

Sen. HAGEL: Well, let me put it this way. It certainly was noted.

SIEGEL: Senator Hagel, thank you very much for talking with us.

Sen. HAGEL: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

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MELISSA BLOCK (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.