That Robert Livingston.
Almost twenty-one years ago:
Livingston Quits as Speaker-Designate
By Eric Pianin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 20, 1998; Page A1
Livingston was first elected to Congress in a 1977 special election and rose to power as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. He was handpicked by Gingrich to become committee chairman after the GOP takeover in 1994, and he quickly locked up GOP support for his bid for the speakership when Gingrich announced that he would resign after the Republicans’ dismal showing in last month’s elections.
While many had high hopes that Livingston, an affable and highly popular lawmaker, would lead the House into a new era of comity, his relations with Democrats quickly soured when he recently sided with conservatives in blocking a House vote on censure as an alternative to Clinton’s impeachment.
Tension turned to crisis Thursday evening when Livingston announced to his fellow Republicans that he had occasionally “strayed from my marriage” after learning that Hustler magazine was preparing an article reporting that he had had several extramarital relationships.
It’s not a smoking gun, it’s more than that. It’s a smoldering crater.
The recent deposition:
PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE,
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Wednesday, October 30, 2O19
During my time at the NSC, I received multiple calls from lobbyist Robert Livingston who told me that Ambassador Yovanovitch should be fired. He characterized Ambassador Yovanovitch as a, quote, “Obama holdover,” end quote, and associated with George Soros. It was not clear to me at the time, or now, at whose direction or at whose expense Mr. Livingston was seeking the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch.
I documented these calls and told my boss, Fiona Hill, and George Kent, who was in Kyiv at the time, I am not aware of any action that was taken in response…
On Ju1y 18 I participated in a sub PCC video conference where an OMB representative reported that the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, had placed an informal hold on security assistance to Ukraine. The only reason given was that the order came at the direction of the President.
Q You said in your opening statement — let me ask you this: How aware were you in real time of the issues that arose in March and April of this yean with Ambassador Yovanovitch?
A To the extent those events were reported in the media, I was tracking that.
Q Did you speak to anybody at the State Department about what was going on?
A Not that I recall.
Q Did you speak to Ambassador Yovanovitch?
A I sent her one email just telling hen I was sorry for what was happening.
Q And you said in your opening statement that when you were at the NSC, you received some messages that were critical of Ambassador Yovanovitch. Is that right?
A That’s correct.
Q From Bob Livingston. Is that right?
A That’s correct.
Q And who is Bob Livingston?
A I had never met Bob Livingston, I understood him to being a lobbyist.
Q Prior to being a lobbyist, do you know what he did?
A By virtue of googling, I did, yes.
Q And what was that?
A That he had served in Congress.
Q And do you recall when he first contacted you?
A Not specifically, no.
Q And how many times did you hear from him?
A I can say with certainty at least twice, but I believe more times than that.
Q What exactly do you necaI1 him saying to you?
A As I reported in my opening statement, I recall him saying that she had to go, she should be fired, that she was an Obama holdover, and made mention of her somehow being connected with George Soros.
Q Other than being an Obama holdover, or an alleged connection to George Soros, did he — did he mention anything about her performance, on any positions that she had taken?
A I don’t specifically recall.
Q Anything else you can remember about what he had said to you?
A Not without looking at the notes that I took contemporaneously but no longer have access to.
Q And what did you do after he — after you spoke to him?
A I reported the conversations both to my then-boss Fiona Hill, and then to George Kent who was then deputy chief of mission at our embassy in Kyiv.
Q What was thein reaction?
A They were, I think, dismayed at the maligning of her character, but no direct action was taken that I was aware of.
Q You had — you knew Ambassador Yovanovitch from your work on the Ukraine desk?
Q And at the NSC?
A That’s correct.
Q And what was your assessment of her competence and capabilities as a diplomat?
A I assessed her to be an extraordinarily competent and skillful diplomat, and a pleasure to work for and with.
Q What did you understand the allegations about George — related to George Soros to be?
A At the time, conspiracy theories were floating in the media about George Soros, including allegations that Fiona Hill was affiliated, in some fashion, with George Soros. So I understood this to be part of a broader narrative used to malign public officials that somebody of some interest disagreed with.
Q And you indicated the conspiracy theory. Did you understand that there was any validity to any of the concerns that Mr. Livingston raised?
A Not that I was aware of, no.
Q Did you receive any other complaints about Ambassador Yovanovitch while you were at the National Security Council?
A Not that I can specifically recall without reviewing my notes from the time.
Q Do you know if there were any other complaints made by anyone else on to anyone else? Did you hear anything about that?
A Not that I can specifically recall night now.
Q Were you aware of a letter written by Representative Pete Sessions in the middle of 2018?
A I don’t have a recollection of that letter night now.
Q Why are you smiling?
A Because I simply don’t remember it. It seems like I should, but I don’t.
Q 0kay. So, you said that you were following the issues related to Ambassador Yovanovitch earlier this year from the media
A That’s connect.
Q And based on your knowledge and expertise about Ukraine and your working relationship with Ambassador Yovanovitch, were you aware of any factual basis for any of the allegations that were made against her?
Q Just so we understand, what role does OMB have in making foreign – – official foreign policy?
A I think, typically, its role is usually limited to the budget a side of things. So it was rather unusual to have OMB expressing concerns that were purely policy-based and not budget-oriented.
Q And your experience, either on the Ukraine desk at the State Department or at the National Security Council, were you aware of OMB, in any other circumstance, expressing policy reservations?
A At the beginning of the Ukrainian Javelin process, I had been told that OMB was taking a policy interest. And OMB began sending working level officials to attend meetings, even at the sub PCC level, which was very unusual at the time. And they weren’t just attending Ukraine-related meetings, they were coming to all of our meetings, which, as an aside, is quite taxing on a very small organization.
Q Small organization being the National Security Council?
A No, on OMB to staff that number of meetings.
A I had a conversation with Ambassador Taylor before he went to Ukraine as he was considering taking the position.
Q And can you describe for us that conversation?
A As he’s — as I understand from media reports that he has testified before, he had come to the Department with concerns that the U.S. policy on Ukraine might change and wanted to get the Department’s views on that. I sat down with him and shared my very frank assessment that the White House was not likely to change its policy on Ukraine except in the event that the President viewed it — the — that Biden was going to be a credible rival for him in the upcoming election, and that he — that furthering the narrative that Russia was for the Republicans and Ukraine was for the Democrats would be in his interest, and that might push him to change the policy on Ukraine. But I said that, otherwise, I saw no reason that our policy would change.
Q And were you aware at that — well, when was that meeting with Ambassador Taylor, do you recall?
A That would have been in May, very shortly before I headed out to Kyiv.
Q So just before May 29th?
A Yeah. a And were you aware by that point that Vice President Biden had announced his candidacy for President?
A I don’t remember when he announced his candidacy for President.
Q Okay. I mean, he wasn’t enthusiastic about Rudy Giuliani’s involvement, was he?
A Not that I understood, no.
Q Was Ambassador Sondland enthusiastic about Rudy Giuliani’s participation?
A I couldn’t tel1 you. I don’t know.
Q Was anyone?
A Not that I ever heard.
Q So nobody at the State Department, to your knowledge, was enthusiastic by about Mr. Giuliani’s role?
A I — no, not that I ever heard.
THE CHAIRMAN: Now, you said that these two Ukrainian Embassy officials – – and I’m not going to ask you to identify them either – – you understood they had no interest in this becoming public. Is that right?
MS. CROFT: That’s correct. That’s connect.
THE CHAIRMAN: And why would they not want this to become public?
MS. CROFT: Because I think that if this were public in Ukraine it would be seen as a reversal of our policy and would, just to say sort of candidly and colloquially, this would be a nea1ly big deal, it would be a really big deal in Ukraine, and an expression of declining U.S. support for Ukraine.
THE CHAIRMAN: So Ukraine had every interest in this not coming out in the press?
MS. CROFT: As long as they thought that in the end the hold would be lifted, they had no reason for this to want to come out.
THE CHAIRMAN: So as long as they thought that they could work through whatever was causing the hold, they wanted this to remain out of the public attention?
MS. CROFT: Exactly.