State Department spokesman Adam Ereli was grilled about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s reported directive to her staff to keep mum on John Bolton’s nomination. Here’s how it began:

QUESTION: Also, The Washington Post reported that Secretary Rice said she didn’t want any information coming out of the Department that could adversely affect the nomination. Is there any truth to that?

MR. ERELI: That is a very inaccurate report and obviously I think you will understand that I’m not going to get into what is said in private staff meetings…

QUESTION: But you’re also saying that she didn’t say that she didn’t want any information coming up that could adversely affect the nomination.

MR. ERELI: That is just not an accurate reflection of the meeting.

First, Ereli says the report was inaccurate without saying how it was inaccurate. This is a classic way of deflecting the question without answering the question.

But then it gets even more interesting:

QUESTION: She wants information out that could adversely affect his nomination?

MR. ERELI: I would say that the Secretary strongly supports this nomination, feels that John Bolton should be confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

This was a perfect opportunity for Ereli to end the controversy. He could have simply said that Rice supports full cooperation with the committee. But he didn’t. Instead he said that Rice believe Bolton should be confirmed.

QUESTION: But that’s a different issue and a different question than whether she has asked the people in the Department not to say anything that would adversely impact the —

MR. ERELI: I’m not aware that any such thing was ever said.

Another carefully worded statement. He’s not saying that she requested her staff withhold information from the committee. Ereli is saying he doesn’t know whether or not that was ever said. It illustrates the thinness of his earlier claim that the report was inaccurate.

Here are the two questions Condoleezza Rice needs to answer to settle this controversy:

1. Should employees of the State Department provide the committee with any information on John Bolton they believe is relevant to his nomination?

2. Have you ever suggested, in any way, that employees of the State Department withhold certain kinds of information from the committee?