By Jordy Yager and Jeremy Herb - 11/16/12 07:01 PM EST
Ex-CIA Director David Petraeus slipped silently into the Capitol early Friday morning followed by a trail of lawmaker concerns that an extramarital affair, which led to his resignation, could have jeopardized national security.
The worries weren’t the centerpiece of Petraeus’s testimony on Friday, but they gave rise to a cordial, yet awkward, exchange between Intelligence Committee members and the man who some had lauded as the “greatest general” of modern times and a worthy presidential candidate.
“Yeah, there's a certain amount of awkwardness, sure,” said Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee after the House Intelligence panel hearing.
“I mean obviously, all of us in the room — and certainly myself — have a great regard for him. I've known him for nine years now. I actually urged him to run for president a few years ago. I went to dinner with him, I know him fairly well. Anytime you see human tragedy for a good person, it’s tough to go through.”
King told The Hill that Petraeus was “very composed, very serious and somber,” and politely told committee members that the affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, which was investigated by the FBI, had not affected his testimony before the panel on Friday and in the weeks prior.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, gave a similar account to reporters after the upper chamber’s hearing, saying that Petraeus “was both eager and willing” to give the committee his insights on the Libya attack of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
But the large amount of press coverage has been difficult for Petraeus, as it’s focused intensely on the affair, she said.
Dozens of reporters, television cameramen and photographers have staked out the house of Broadwell’s brother in Washington D.C., spending the night in front and in the back alley with the hope of catching a glimpse of her.
Petraeus mentioned the affair, and his ensuing resignation, in his opening statements to the committee, but the Senate committee wanted to spare him further embarrassment and didn’t want to add to his personal suffering, Feinstein said.
Petraeus’s fall from grace last week ended a long career in which he led American military forces through two highly contentious wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a four-star general. He’s been well respected and revered in political and media circles, and his resignation came as a shock and a blow for many members.
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a former Army officer, told The Hill that talking with Petraeus was bittersweet, as he made a point to talk with him personally before the hearing and after his testimony was complete.
“As a former Army officer, he was the greatest general in my lifetime and so I just wanted to thank him for his service personally and wish him well,” said Rooney in an interview. “He’s an amazing leader and what he’s going to have to deal with personally is none of my business.”