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14. "Who got Bob Livingston?"
Copyright © 2000 by Dan E. Moldea
In the aftermath of Speaker-elect Bob Livingston's startling admission to the Republican caucus on December 17, 1998, and his announced resignation two days later--two events which took the Congress, the White House, and the media completely by surprise--the search intensified for Larry Flynt's still-anonymous investigator. Underscoring the mystery, reporter Mary Leonard of the Boston Globe asked: "Who got Bob Livingston? It has become a hot question since the speaker-designate shocked the House on Saturday with his decision to decline the leadership post and resign from Congress."
Early on, the only person to call and ask me the big question was Karen Foerstel, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly. While I was in Los Angeles on December 20, she had left a message on my answering machine in Washington, giving me her home and work numbers. I assumed that she had heard my name from someone close to Livingston, who could have known as early as December 12 that I had been interviewing sources in New Orleans.
I telephoned Foerstel two days later at her home during work hours, trying to avoid speaking to her but still wanting to return the call so as not to raise more suspicions. Without specifically denying my role with Flynt, I left a non-denial denial--something like, "Where could you have possibly heard something like that?"--on her answering machine and invited her to call me after the holidays. Mercifully, she never did.
I still had high hopes for the successful completion of my work for Flynt and then a quick ride into the sunset without ever being identified. Even though I was proud of what I had done and why I had done it, the intense warfare between President Clinton's enemies and his supporters threatened to annihilate anyone who entered--or got dragged into--the fray. I already had a taste of that through the chain of events which began with the publication of my book about Vincent Foster's suicide in April 1998 and led to my affidavit on OIC leaks, which I submitted to Judge Norma Holloway Johnson the previous August.
I knew from experience that if the right-wing media couldn't get you on something, they would simply make something up--and then hide behind the First Amendment.
In his effort to provide cover for me, Flynt was intentionally coy about the identity of his investigator. Consequently, knee-jerk speculation reflexively pointed to Terry Lenzner, a friend of President Clinton and the president of the Washington-based Investigative Group International.
On the MSNBC program, News Chat, on December 21, host John Gibson asked Flynt, "Can you tell me it is not Terry Lenzner, the P.I. firm that has done the investigation for the White House and the President's defense team?"
"I'm not answering that question," Flynt replied curtly.
Another guest, GOP consultant Craig Shirley, snapped back, "You can put that down as a yes, John."
Flynt responded, "You can't put that down as a yes or a no, either one. I'm not going to answer it."
"Larry," Gibson continued, "do you understand how this looks? It now appears that the President has given a wink and a nudge to Larry Flynt and said, 'Go get him,' and that Larry Flynt is."
"No. That's not true at all," Flynt insisted.
That same day, Mark Levin, the head of the Landmark Legal Foundation-- another right-wing, Richard Scaife-funded, stalking horse for Kenneth Starr and the OIC--issued a statement, claiming:Last Friday, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who is paying $1 million for embarrassing information on Republican officials--and helped end the political career of would-be House Speaker Bob Livingston . . . would not deny that Terry Lenzner, the private detective hired by the president to trash his adversaries, is working for him. Flynt promises more disclosures.On December 28, Lenzner released his own formal denial to MSNBC, saying in a written statement:The Investigative Group categorically denies ever having been retained by Hustler magazine to conduct any investigation or inquiry at any time. We have never spoken to Larry Flynt or any agent or representative of Mr. Flynt. Furthermore, Investigative Group has never conducted an investigation of Speaker Livingston nor were we asked to do so.Flynt and I felt terribly about placing Lenzner, whom we both respected, in such an awkward position. However, at that time, Flynt and Allan MacDonell were still in the midst of sensitive negotiations with Representative Bob Barr's ex-wife while I was still working alone and juggling over twenty separate investigations.
In short, we simply refused to be distracted from what we believed was a righteous cause: To help derail an attempted right-wing coup against the Executive Branch of the United States Government.
On the same day as Lenzner's official denial, Representative Bob Barr sent Flynt a letter, stating:I have been informed you are publishing an article in your magazine, Hustler, suggesting that I have lied under oath. Such an allegation is outrageous and absolutely untrue. As a lawyer and officer of the court for over 20 years, and a former United States Attorney sworn to uphold the laws of the United States, I have never lied under sworn oath.In response, Flynt drafted a letter on January 5, 1999--three days before MacDonell flew to Atlanta to pick up the evidence against the congressman--saying:
Consider yourself on notice this entirely unfounded and salacious accusation is false, and uttering it through your magazine would demonstrate an utter and malicious disregard for the truth.I do want to advise you that we are investigating various allegations involving your moral and ethical conduct in relation to subjects upon which you have taken a public position.Flynt then gave Barr my telephone number in Washington.
If you would like to comment on these allegations, please call my investigator, Dan Moldea.
Before sending this letter, Flynt's executive assistant telephoned and read it to me, asking for my thoughts. I told her that I still had a great deal to do and didn't want to be recognized or hassled while doing it, adding that there was no way that Barr would keep the name of Flynt's mystery investigator a secret. She responded that she understood my concerns and said that she would have Flynt talk to me.
A few minutes later, Flynt, who sounded very ill, called and said that he had given this matter a great deal of thought and decided that we had to give Barr an opportunity to respond. Yielding to Flynt's sense of fairness, I consented to the letter, as written. However, I predicted that when I was publicly identified as his investigator, the news would be a total anticlimax--inasmuch as the President's enemies were hoping that someone close to the White House had been doing these investigations.
Regardless, Flynt and I agreed that the time had come for us to take the White House--as well as Terry Lenzner and even James Carville and White House aide Sid Blumenthal, among others--off the hook. They never had anything to do with us.
Knowing that it would be just a matter of days before my role in Flynt's investigation became public--and that the right-wing media was going to try to tear my head off--I asked a friend to design a web site for me, Moldea.com, which would give me an opportunity to respond to what I knew would be an onslaught of false accusations and disinformation. Among other things, I posted my August 24 affidavit on OIC leaks, which I believed would clarify much of what I had done since the publication of my book about Foster's suicide.
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