Petraeus sneaks past press in visit to Capitol

Law enforcement officials quietly ushered former CIA director David Petraeus in and out of the Capitol through delivery entrances on Friday, avoiding reporters eager to question him about his affair with author Paula Broadwell.

Senate sergeant at arms Terry Gainer told The Hill that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees asked him to execute a “seamless, secure, and safe” arrival and departure for Petraeus, who was on the Hill early Friday morning to testify in closed-door hearings on the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

It was a stark contrast from previous visits by the retired four-star general to Congress, when he was often accompanied by full military retinues and often paused for photographs.

A throng of reporters gathered Friday near the entrances and exits typically used by high-level officials visiting the Capitol. But Petraeus stealthily bypassed the media horde when he arrived for his 7:30 a.m. House hearing, and avoided reporters again as he exited out of the Capitol Visitor Center's loading dock around noon after his Senate hearing.

Gainer said the plan wasn’t purposefully designed to avoid the press. It was coordinated with the Capitol Police and the House sergeant at arms to provide the safest entrance and exit possible, he said.   

“It wasn’t a direct intention to do that,” said Gainer of the media not having access to him. “I never like to kill an opportunity for a story. But my primary responsibility was to move him quickly and quietly and that’s what we were able to pull off.”

Petraeus left in a black sedan with tinted windows accompanied by a police escort. A line of photographers staked out the exit on New Jersey Avenue and C Street NW. 

It was difficult to see into the departing sedan as it wheeled onto Constitution Avenue. A Senate official confirmed Petraeus was inside.

Gainer would not confirm which entrance or exit Petraeus used in his Capitol Hill trek, saying that it could impede the visits of future high-profile dignitaries.

“I wouldn’t want to say how we got him in because we like to keep our options open when other people come up here,” he said. 

“One of the first rules of security is to keep people guessing.”

— This story was first posted at 12:25 p.m. and has been updated.