By Jordy Yager and Jeremy Herb - 11/14/12 01:29 AM EST
Key lawmakers are demanding that ex-CIA Director David Petraeus return to Capitol Hill in the wake of his shocking resignation to testify about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
Petraeus, who was due to testify this week, joined the administration in mid-September in its early but inaccurate description of the attack by terrorists as a spontaneous protest that spun out of control.
“His view as someone who was actually there [in Benghazi] ... I think that’s important for us to hear,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.
The scandal has also widened to include Gen. John Allen, Petraeus’s successor as commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The FBI sent the Pentagon 20,000 to 30,000 pages of email exchanges between Allen and Jill Kelley, a Tampa woman who first drew attention to the affair by complaining of threatening emails sent to her by Broadwell. The Defense Department inspector general is investigating the communications.
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday said Obama was surprised by the news about Petraeus and was not “pleased” with the events of the last week. He said the president had confidence in Allen and other military commanders.
Responding to questions about the extraordinary timing of Petraeus’s downfall, Carney said it was a “fact” that Obama only learned of the FBI’s investigation two days after the election. He avoided criticizing the FBI.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) said it was “hard to believe” Obama didn’t know about the Petraeus investigation before the election.
“If [Obama] was told and did nothing about it, that reflects on him,” King said on CNN. “If he wasn’t told, then that reflects on the people who should have told him, the FBI and Attorney General [Eric Holder].”
Lawmakers have not called for FBI Director Robert Mueller or Holder to testify about why they did not alert the White House about the investigation.
But in a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the subcommittee in charge of the Justice Department, emphasized that Holder’s role in the investigation of Petraeus deserves serious examination by Congress.
“It has been reported that Attorney General Eric Holder knew about this investigation for months but chose not to disclose it until after the presidential election — yet another example of Mr. Holder’s politicized leadership of the Justice Department,” Wolf wrote in the letter, which requested the formation of a bicameral select committee to investigate the attack and the administration’s response.
The CIA moved Tuesday to bolster congressional confidence in the agency ahead of two classified hearings slated for Thursday on the Libya attack. Acting director Mike Morell met with Boehner, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Feinstein, according to aides.
Morell and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce are scheduled to meet Wednesday with Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), chairman and ranking Democrat respectively of the House Intelligence Committee. Morell is expected to take Petraeus’s place as a CIA witness at Thursday’s closed hearings.
Demands that Petraeus return to Capitol Hill came from both parties on Tuesday as lawmakers began their lame-duck session.
“I think we need to hear from David Petraeus,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters. “I know we’re interested in hearing from him in the Intelligence Committee.”
Petraeus has not made public remarks about the attack other than to condemn it. But he briefed the Senate Intelligence panel in a closed session just days after the assault, and Feinstein told CNN afterward that she had seen not evidence that it was a planned terrorist attack. Since
Rubio said he wanted Petraeus’s insight into what the Obama administration knew about the attack in Libya and when.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have also called for Petraeus to testify about the Libya attack. Asked by reporters why it was important to hear from Petraeus, McCain said, “Because he was in charge.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told The Hill that Petraeus’s testimony will be needed to answer questions in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation.
Petraeus’s return to Capitol Hill would be dramatic because he would probably face tough questions from disappointed lawmakers who once placed him on a pedestal.
“He is without question one of the finest officers and military minds of his generation,” said Feinstein at Petraeus’s 2011 confirmation hearing to become CIA director.
“He has presided over the shifting of momentum to our favor in Afghanistan and he has engineered, with other important contributing factors, a victory in Iraq when defeat often seemed inevitable.”