Obama: ‘We’re Not Supposed To Meddle In Criminal Investigations’

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President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference on Nov. 14, 2012 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference on Nov. 14, 2012 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama talked about Gen. David Petraeus in glowing terms despite the scandal surrounding the former CIA director.

During his news conference Wednesday, Obama said that the four-star general has provided the United States with an “extraordinary service.”

“My main hope right now is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career,” Obama said.

The president said that the White House has “no evidence at this point” that classified information was disclosed between Petraeus and his mistress, Paula Broadwell, that would have an impact on national security.

“We’re not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations,” Obama said.

Obama added that he is “withholding judgment” on how the entire process surrounding the Petraeus affair came up.

“We don’t have all the information yet but I want to say that I have a lot of confidence generally in the FBI and they’ve got a difficult job. … It is also possible that had we’d been told, then you’d be sitting here asking a question about why were you interfering in a criminal investigation, so I think it’s best right now for us to just see how this whole process unfolded,” he said.

Petraeus resigned as CIA director last Friday after an affair with his biographer became public.

The FBI began an investigation after Paula Broadwell allegedly sent harassing emails to Tampa socialite and Petraeus family friend, Jill Kelley.

Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teenagers alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rather than transmitting emails to the other’s inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic “dropbox,” the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier to trace.

Broadwell had co-authored a biography titled “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” published in January. In the preface, she said she met Petraeus in the spring of 2006 while she was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and she ended up following him on multiple trips to Afghanistan as part of her research.

But the contents of the email exchanges between Petraeus and Broadwell suggested to FBI agents that their relationship was intimate. The FBI concluded relatively quickly — by late summer at the latest — that no security breach had occurred, the two senior law enforcement officials said. But the FBI continued its investigation into whether Petraeus had any role in the harassing emails.

Petraeus, 60, told one former associate he began an affair with Broadwell, 40, a couple of months after he became the director of the CIA late last year. They mutually agreed to end the affair four months ago, but they kept in contact because she was still writing a dissertation on his time commanding U.S. troops overseas, the associate said.

FBI agents contacted Petraeus, and he was told that sensitive, possibly classified documents related to Afghanistan were found on her computer. He assured investigators they did not come from him, and he mused to his associates that they were probably given to her on her reporting trips to Afghanistan by commanders she visited in the field there. The FBI concluded there was no security breach.

The scandal took another twist after an investigation was launched into the communication Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had with Kelley. Allen has denied there was any wrongdoing.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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