Petraeus: CIA exit not tied to Libya

Former CIA Director David Petraeus on Thursday said his resignation had nothing to do with the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and denied disclosing any classified information.

Petraeus’s comments come a day before he is expected to testify to the House and Senate Intelligence committees at closed-door hearings. Those hearings are expected to focus on what Petraeus saw when he visited Benghazi.

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“His assessment of what he found on the ground is absolutely crucial to put together with the other pieces of the puzzle people’s view of what happened during and after the event,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Thursday as he exited a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Benghazi.

Burr is a member of the Senate Intelligence panel that will grill Petraeus on Friday. It is holding its own hearing Thursday with acting CIA Director Michael Morell.

The panels are asking questions about the administration’s account of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. The administration initially described the attack as spinning out of a protest against an anti-Islam video, before acknowledging it was a terrorist attack days later.

Questions have also been raised about security at the consulate and at other locations in Benghazi that were covert CIA installations.

The shocking resignation of Petraeus has raised new questions about the intelligence on Benghazi, particularly after he initially canceled appearances with the two panels this week following his decision to leave the government.

Petraeus’s first comments since his resignation were to CNN Headline News reporter Kyra Phillips. He told Phillips he had not provided any classified documents to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he had an extramarital affair.

Petraeus said he resigned from the CIA because of the affair and believed standing down from his post was the appropriate response, according to Phillips.

Petraeus added that he did not try to persuade others in the administration to allow him to keep his job once he admitted the affair, according to the report. The four-star general said he had not spoken to Broadwell since his resignation last week.

President Obama and other administration officials have at times blamed faulty intelligence for the conflicting stories about the Benghazi attack.

Burr agreed intelligence was “scattered” initially, but said he believed different parts of the community were coming together.

“I think the entire intelligence community seems to be on the same page, where they were scattered for the first several weeks of this,” he said. Of Petraeus’s testimony, he said, “I think this is just one piece of the puzzle that either confirms or changes other pieces, or realigns them.”

Two lawmakers attending Thursday’s House hearing suggested the focus of lawmakers will be on Benghazi and not on Petraeus’s affair.

“No, we’ll talk about Benghazi,” answered Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) in response to a question about whether lawmakers would discuss Petraeus’s affair and resignation.

Burr, when asked about interest in the hearing about Petraeus’s affair, responded, “None.”

Burr also threw cold water on a suggestion from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that a select committee be set up to investigate what happened in Benghazi.

“It’s important that the committees with jurisdiction have an opportunity to do their oversight role,” he said. “In the case of the Senate and House Intelligence committee[s], we’re the primary responsibility for oversight of the intelligence community; this is not something that needs to be farmed out unless committee can’t function.”

Lawmakers have launched a number of investigations into whether the diplomatic mission in Benghazi had been provided adequate security before the attack, as well as into the administration's response.

Petraeus was initially slated to testify at two closed-door Intelligence Committee hearings Thursday. He will not testify separately on Friday before both the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

The House Intelligence Committee announced Wednesday evening that Petraeus would come in Friday morning, and the Senate panel confirmed Thursday that it would have Petraeus testify later Friday morning.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also will testify about the Benghazi attacks, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) announced Thursday.



“I have spoken to Secretary Clinton's counselor and chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and the secretary has committed to testifying before our committee and the Senate Foreign Relations [Committee] on the Accountability Review Board's report, which is expected to be concluded by early to mid-December,” Ros-Lehtinen said in her prepared opening remarks.

— This story was updated at 1:34 p.m.