The White House faces growing demands from Capitol Hill for answers about what the FBI and President Barack Obama knew about the David Petraeus scandal and why the president was not informed about the months-long investigation until after his re-election.
The fact that David Petraeus, who was scheduled to give testimony on Thursday about CIA intelligence surrounding the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Libya, but now that appearance has been delayed because of his resignation on Friday.
As more information is released, it is clear that Representative Eric Cantor- one of the country’s most powerful Republicans- was notified of the investigation involving David Petraeus on October 27, more than a week before the election.
Federal investigators from the FBI and the Justice Department- including Barack Obama-appointee Attorney General Eric Holder- had been aware of the ensuing scandal for months
In addition to their displeasure at being left in the dark until just hours before David Petraeus made his very public announcement on Friday, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are concerned that the timeline of the various notifications was purposefully slowed down to allow for some degree of a cover-up over Petraeus’ scheduled testimony.
The timing of the Petraeus resignation and this week’s Benghazi hearings means the two issues have, for now, become inextricably linked.
As CIA director, David Petraeus is understood to have interviewed the CIA base chief and head of the CIA response team about what happened in Benghazi when Ambassador Chris Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith and CIA contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed.
At the same time, Congress wants to know why, if senior FBI figures knew of the affair in the late summer, President Barack Obama was not informed until last week and, additionally, why leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees learned of the resignation from the media.
According to the White House, Barack Obama was not told of the FBI investigation and David Petraeus’ affair until last Thursday, even though he meets regularly with the head of the FBI.
Some Republicans have suggested there might be a cover-up over Benghazi or that the news was held back until after the election.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Representative Mike Rogers, a Republican and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, have expressed their dismay at not having been informed earlier.
General Michael Hayden, former CIA chief, said the timing of the resignation was “mysterious”.
He told Fox News: “Hanging out there is the requirement in law to keep the intelligence committees fully and currently informed about significant intelligence activity.
“It’s not surprising that Senator Feinstein and Chairman Rogers have shown a lot of pique at not being let in on this a bit earlier.”
According to the FBI, their investigation began in the spring when Jill Kelley, described as an unofficial “social liaison” to the Joint Special Operations Command in Tampa, told a friend in the FBI that she had received harassing emails from another woman.
Jill Kelley, who is Lebanese-born, and her husband Scott were friend of David Petraeus, 60, and his wife Holly. The FBI investigation established that Paul Broadwell, 40, a married mother of two, had sent the emails.
In monitoring Paula Broadwell’s emails, it was discovered that she was receiving emails of a sexual nature from a mysterious Gmail account.
It was eventually discovered that the mysterious emails were from David Petraeus, who admitted the affair.
On October 31st, however, and before anyone else on Capitol Hill or in the White House knew, the FBI friend of Jill Kelley contacted Representative Dave Reichert regarding concerns about national security and asking for a member of the Republican congressional leadership.
Dave Reichert directed the FBI man to Representative Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip, who spoke to him and then informed the FBI of the conversation.
Ronald Kessler, a Newsmax journalist, said he was informed of the affair and FBI investigation by an FBI source on October 10th. David Petraeus and Paul Broadwell were interviewed during the week of October 29th and both admitted their affair.
Paula Broadwell was interviewed again on November 2nd, at which time the FBI is said to have concluded that no charges would be brought either for cyber stalking or security breaches.
David Petraeus has told friends he did not have an affair with Jill Kelley, 37, a mother of three. In a statement issued on Sunday, Jill Kelley asked for privacy for her and her family and neither confirmed nor denied an affair.
Speaking on CBS, Senator Lindsey Graham, a personal and confidant of David Petraeus, said: “Well, if there`s no effect of the affair on national security, I think we need to move on. But at the end of the day, the one thing that has to happen, in my view, is we’ve got to get to the bottom of Benghazi.
“I hate what happened to General Petraeus for his family and the families for those involved, but we have four dead Americans in Benghazi. We have a national security failure long in the making.
“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, so from my point of view, it`s absolutely essential that he give testimony before the Congress so we can figure out Benghazi.”
He added: “I would suggest that we have a joint select committee of House and Senate members and we do this together, not have three different committee going off in three different directions, so we can get to the bottom of it like we did in Watergate and Iran Contra. I think that would be smart for the Congress to combine resources.”
Just as with Watergate, the central issue over events surrounding David Petraeus’ resignation is crystallizing into something similar to the one Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee famously asked during the Watergate hearings: “What did the President know and when did he know it.”
Neither Robert Mueller, FBI director, not Eric Holder, attorney general, has commented on when they learned of the investigation. Both the FBI and Justice Department has said no one in the White House was told of the investigation until last week.
Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor, compared what happened in Benghazi to Watergate and told Fox News it was essential David Petraeus testified. Even though he is now a private citizen, David Petraeus can be compelled to appear.
“The frustration is justified,” Rudy Giuliani said.
“And it’s in the national interest. Now we’re going to have a hearing next week, and the man who knows the facts, David Petraeus – he’s the only man who can really tell us what the CIA knew, what they did, why they did it, how they did it. He’s not going to testify.
“And this is a very convenient way to get the administration out of a very, very difficult situation. But is inevitable. This is like Watergate. This is inevitable. This is all going to come out.
“It may take a month, it may take five months, but this is all going to come out. And every single new cover-up they do just makes it much, much worse.”
Representative Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on MSNBC that the FBI was “derelict in its duty” when it failed to tell the White House immediately when it learned of David Petraeus’s affair.
“Once the FBI realized that it was investigating the director of the CIA or the CIA director had come within its focus or its scope, I believe at that time they had an absolute obligation to tell the president. Not to protect David Petraeus, but to protect the president.
“The fact is he is a key part of the president’s foreign policy team, maybe more than any other CIA director in recent times.
“He was going around the world negotiating various understandings and agreements, I’m aware of that.
“And to have someone out there in such a sensitive position who the FBI thought perhaps could have been compromised or was under the scope of an FBI investigation who may or may not have been having an affair at the time, that to me had to have been brought to the president or certainly to the National Security Council. If not, the FBI was derelict in its duty.”
He added: “This is a crisis, I believe, of major proportions. This is not the usual political thing. We’re not talking about the secretary of commerce or some under secretary somewhere.”