Several key Congressional lawmakers expressed their dismay Sunday about being left in the dark along with the White House about an FBI investigation into David Petraeus that led to his resignation as CIA Director.
They also voiced puzzlement that it came to a head within hours of President Obama’s re-election.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she wanted to know why the FBI had not notified her and other committee leaders about the former general’s affair. She learned of the stunning revelations only from news reports Friday and she was dumbstruck when he confirmed it later in a phone call with her.
Questioned on “Fox News Sunday,” Feinstein said that she wanted to know why the FBI did not notify her committee beforehand.
The incident “could have had an effect on national security,” Feinstein said, “we should have been told.”
She also that there was “absolutely not” a link between the resignation of Petraeus and the Sept. 11 attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya. The CIA has been criticized for providing a flawed early report about the attack.
Petraeus resigned on Friday after news of his affair with Paula Broadwell, a former Army Reserve officer who had written his biography, was made public.
Reuters quoted a former spokesman for Petraeus during his time as an Army general as saying the affair with Broadwell began by mutual consent after Petraeus retired from the Army in August 2011 to lead the CIA.
The FBI investigation began last summer after it received a report from a woman who said she had received threatening e-mails ultimately traced to Broadwell. The woman, whom The Associated Press first identified Sunday as 37-year-old Jill Kelley. The Tampa, Florida resident and volunteer social liaison with military families at MacDill Air Force Base is a friend of Petraeus and his wife, Holly. The e-mails related to Kelley’s relationship with Ms. Broadwell, according to government officials, the New York Times reported.
In a statement released Sunday night, Kelley and her husband, Dr. Scott Kelley, did not address their involvement in the investigation that ultimately led to Petraeus’ resignation. The Kelleys said they had been friends with Mr. Petraeus “and his family for over five years.”
“We respect his and his family’s privacy, and want the same for us and our three children,” the family said in a statement.
On television programs Sunday morning, lawmakers broadly praised Petraeus personally, lauding him in warm and even emotional terms as a leader of rare talent, his resignation a loss to the nation, his personal flaws a secondary concern to some.
“David Petraeus is a great leader, a great patriot, and he is a guy who has probably contributed more to the safety of the United States of America over the last decade than any one single individual,” Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, a Republican and vice-chairman of the intelligence committee, said on the ABC program “This Week.”
He said he believed that Petraeus had been “straight up” with the committee during his confirmation hearing last year. He was confirmed by unanimous vote of the Senate on June 30.
But there was no shortage of questions Sunday about the investigation and the timing of the shocking news that was Petraeus’ resignation.
“The timeline has to be looked at and analyzed,” said Representative Peter King of New York, a Republican and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, on CNN’s “State of the Union. “Because obviously this was a matter involving a potential compromise of security and the president should have been told about it at the earliest stage.”
Chambliss said that the committee might at some point want to hear from Petraeus about Benghazi, but added that acting CIA chief and Petraeus’ deputy, Michael J. Morell, should be an adequate substitute during a closed briefing scheduled for Thursday.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he was ready to move past Petraeus’ personal story but wanted to hear his testimony on Benghazi, which the senator called a “national security failure.”