WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The House minority leader is questioning why Congress didn’t know sooner about the David Petraeus affair.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants an explanation why Congress wasn’t informed quicker by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as to what was going on with the now deposed CIA director.
“There are questions about timing, just as a tradition to notify Congress before we see it on TV,” Pelosi said during a press conference.
Pelosi is not the only congressional leader who wants an answer.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says she was totally caught off-guard.
“We received no advanced notice. It was like a lightning bolt,” said Feinstein said.
The affair was first revealed to the FBI after Petraeus biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell allegedly sent harassing emails to Jill Kelley, a woman who Petraeus says he has a platonic relationship with.
And a new twist was revealed Tuesday when the Pentagon said the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, is under investigation for alleged “inappropriate communications” with Kelley.
A senior defense official, who discussed the matter only on condition of anonymity because it is under investigation, said 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails and other documents from Allen’s communications with Kelley between 2010 and 2012 are under review by the Pentagon. He would not say whether they involved sexual matters or whether they are thought to include unauthorized disclosures of classified information. The official said Allen has denied any wrongdoing.
FBI agents appeared at Broadwell’s Charlotte, N.C., home Monday night and appeared to be conducting a search. An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the agents’ presence but did not say what they were doing.
Petraeus resigned while lawmakers still had questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Lawmakers said it’s possible that Petraeus will still be asked to appear on Capitol Hill to testify about what he knew about the U.S. response to that incident.
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the circumstances of the FBI probe smacked of a cover-up by the White House.
“It seems this (the investigation) has been going on for several months and, yet, now it appears that they’re saying that the FBI didn’t realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved. It just doesn’t add up,” said King, R-N.Y.
Petraeus, 60, quit Friday after acknowledging an extramarital relationship. He has been married 38 years to Holly Petraeus, with whom he has two adult children, including a son who led an infantry platoon in Afghanistan as an Army lieutenant.
Broadwell, a 40-year-old graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and an Army Reserve officer, is married with two young sons.
Petraeus’ affair with Broadwell will be the subject of meetings Wednesday involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA deputy director Michael Morell.
Petraeus had been scheduled to appear before the committees on Thursday to testify on the attack in Benghazi. Republicans and some Democrats have questioned the U.S. response and protection of diplomats stationed overseas.
Morell was expected to testify in place of Petraeus, and lawmakers said he should have the answers to their questions. But Feinstein and others didn’t rule out the possibility that Congress will compel Petraeus to testify about Benghazi at a later date, even though he’s relinquished his job.
“I don’t see how in the world you can find out what happened in Benghazi before, during and after the attack if General Petraeus doesn’t testify,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Graham, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wants to create a joint congressional committee to investigate the U.S. response to that attack.
Feinstein said she first learned of Petraeus’ affair from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call Friday with Petraeus. She eventually was briefed by the FBI and said so far there was no indication that national security was breached.
Still, Feinstein called the news “a heartbreak” for her personally and U.S. intelligence operations, and said she didn’t understand why the FBI didn’t give her a heads up as soon as Petraeus’ name emerged in the investigation.
“We are very much able to keep things in a classified setting,” she said. “At least if you know, you can begin to think and then to plan. And, of course, we have not had that opportunity.”
Clapper was told by the Justice Department of the Petraeus investigation at about 5 p.m. on Election Day, and then called Petraeus and urged him to resign, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
FBI officials say the committees weren’t informed until Friday, one official said, because the matter started as a criminal investigation into harassing emails sent by Broadwell to another woman.
Concerned that the emails he exchanged with Broadwell raised the possibility of a security breach, the FBI brought the matter up with Petraeus directly, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.
Petraeus decided to quit, though he was breaking no laws by having an affair, officials said.
Feinstein said she has not been told the precise relationship between Petraeus and the woman who reported the harassing emails to the FBI.
Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, called Petraeus “a great leader” who did right by stepping down and still deserves the nation’s gratitude. He also didn’t rule out calling Petraeus to testify on Benghazi at some point.
“He’s trying to put his life back together right now and that’s what he needs to focus on,” Chambliss said.
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