Congress

Catherine Croft impeachment testimony revives Bob Livingston’s spotlight

Former speaker-designate resigned over sexual impropriety during Clinton impeachment saga

Catherine Croft, a specialist on Ukraine with the State Department, arrives for a closed-door deposition in the Capitol as part of the House's impeachment inquiry on Oct. 30, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Catherine Croft’s testimony in the impeachment inquiry Wednesday brought up a name famous for drama that played out during a previous impeachment: former Republican Rep. Robert L. Livingston.

While the twists and turns of the Trump presidency and turmoil on Capitol Hill sometimes seem unprecedented, Livingston’s legacy is a reminder that as much as political Washington changes, it also remains the same.

Later this week, the House is expected to vote on a resolution moving the impeachment inquiry forward. Over the weekend, freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Hill announced she would resign after allegations by her husband, amid an acrimonious divorce, of having sexual relationships with a campaign staffer and a congressional aide. Those two events are unrelated, but made for a busy week.

In 1998, as the House debated whether to impeach President Bill Clinton, an episode played out that tied together Livington’s congressional career, sexual history and the Clinton probe.

Livingston, at that time speaker-designee of the House, had confessed to Republican colleagues the night before the House was scheduled to vote on impeachment articles that he’d had adulterous affairs.

The next day he stunned the House, announcing mid-debate he would not serve as speaker and would quit Congress in six months. Staying on-topic for impeachment debate, he urged Clinton to follow his example and quit, too.

Bob Livingston,R-La., in 1998 after being chosen for House Speaker by his conference. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Bob Livingston in 1998 after being chosen for House Speaker by his conference. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Clinton did not take Livingston up on the offer, and the spectacle of Livingston announcing his resignation on the same day the House voted to impeach the president over alleged lies about his own sexual indiscretions put an indelible mark on Dec. 19, 1998.

[Impeachment news roundup: Oct 30]

Now a lobbyist, Livingston has remained in the political sphere but outside the spotlight in the last 20 years. But he is back today.

He had a starring role in testimony from Croft, a State Department employee who previously worked on Ukraine issues for the National Security Council. In her opening statement she told lawmakers that while at NSC, she received repeated calls from Livingston pressuring the administration to remove Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovich from her post.

“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,” said Croft in her written testimony.

Livingston is registered to lobby on behalf of foreign entities and he has Ukrainian interests in his portfolio. The Livingston Group represents a Ukrainian steel association called Ukrmetalurgprom and was actively lobbying as recently as this September for lawmakers to consider an exemption for Ukrainian steel from the Trump administration’s steel tariffs.

“Congress and the Administration have extended tremendous political and defense support to Ukraine, and a deal with respect to Section 232 tariffs would be a way to extend economic support,” reads a September filing with the Justice Department.

Livingston reported just one contact with Croft in his FARA records. Documents show that he contacted her on May 17, 2018, on behalf of the Congo and the Ukrainian metallurgy company, without any mention of the U.S. ambassador.

Also on the Livingston client list is Innovative Technology & Business Consulting LLC, which is tied to Ukrainian interests. The LLC’s resident agent is Sergei Krasnitsk, according to the signature on the contract with Livingston Group in FARA records. An amendment to Livingston Group’s FARA information filed in July 2018 connects the company to former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The amended filings include a letter from Livingston about Tymoshenko’s intent to travel to Washington, D.C. and offering to travel to the U.S. before Trump's planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Helsinki “if it would be helpful.”

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