updated 4/27/2005 3:45:44 AM ET 2005-04-27T07:45:44

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is casting a wide net for information about John R. Bolton, whose nomination as ambassador to the United Nations has been stalled by allegations he abused power and mistreated underlings in government.

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Over the next few days committee members plan to set up interviews with as many as 19 people — from former intelligence officers and subordinates who reported problems with Bolton to his former chief assistant, according to a Senate committee aide who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Committee members also prepared a list of about 20 questions to send to Bolton, including requests for e-mails and telephone logs relating to confrontations he has had with intelligence analysts, according to Senate staff.

Bolton seeks support
For his part, Bolton returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to shore up support, but not necessarily among key senators on the fence. Two staunch Republican supporters, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, renewed their praise for him.

Meanwhile, senators whose votes are in question — including GOP Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — laid low and did not meet with Bolton.

Interview requests have been extended by the committee to former State Department legal counsel William Taft, former CIA official Alan Foley, and former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin. None has been interviewed before.

Melody Townsel, who has alleged that an irate Bolton chased her and harassed her — not sexually — when she was a U.S. Agency for International Development worker in Kyrgyzstan, spoke by phone for several hours Tuesday to committee staff.

Some upcoming interviews will be with people who have already talked to the committee. They include former ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, who has spoken only to GOP staff; former acting chief of the National Intelligence Council Stuart Cohen; and Neil Silver, director of the strategic proliferation office.

McLaughlin, Cohen, Silver and others have knowledge of incidents in which Bolton reportedly abused or tried to remove subordinates whose intelligence information he disputed.

Republicans still on the fence
Last week Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee expressed reservations amid new allegations that Bolton abused his authority, mistreated subordinates and misled the committee.

Four Republicans — Chafee, Hagel, and Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have said they would like more time to review the allegations.

“At this point in time I have not been presented with anything that would change my mind” from supporting Bolton, Murkowski said. But she said she won’t decide until the committee votes, now scheduled for May 12.

Aides to Hagel, Chafee and Murkowski said their bosses did not meet with Bolton on Tuesday. Voinovich’s spokeswoman, Marcie Ridgway, would say only, “The senator is still reviewing the Bolton record.”

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., is pursuing more information about Bolton’s request for the identity of 10 U.S. officials involved in secret National Security Agency communications during the past four years.

Dodd spokesman Marvin Fast said Dodd is also seeking e-mails and logs relating to Bolton’s communications with intelligence analysts over testimony he was preparing to give in 2002 about whether Cuba was developing chemical and biological weapons.

Bolton clashed with intelligence analyst Christian P. Westermann earlier in 2002, when the CIA worker tried to change language in a speech Bolton was giving about Cuba. The committee is seeking to interview Westermann again.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico asked the Foreign Relations Committee to find out if the NSA intercepted some of his conversations and whether Bolton sought access to them, said Bill Sparks, a spokesman for the governor.

These included conversations with former Secretary of State Colin Powell and North Korean diplomats, with whom he was talking in an effort to stop their nuclear weapons program.

Richardson, a Democrat and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was in contact with the North Koreans in January 2003, shortly after becoming governor, and informed Powell of his efforts.

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