Members call Petraeus to testify

Members call Petraeus to testify

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 FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk Feinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Petraeus’s resignation, just days after the presidential election, amid scandal over a sexual affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, has further undermined confidence in the intelligence community and become a political problem for President Obama. The president’s first post-election news conference on Wednesday is expected to be dominated by questions about how it is possible he was not told about the affair until after the election was won.

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 HolderEric Himpton HolderEric Holder: 'There are grounds for impeachment' in Mueller report Prosecutor appointed by Barr poised to enter Washington firestorm Dems struggle to make Trump bend on probes MORE].”

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 BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Trump adviser expected to leave White House, join Juul The Hill's 12:30 Report: McGahn inflames Dem divisions on impeachment MORE (R-Ohio) on Tuesday, Rep. Frank WolfFrank Rudolph WolfDOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling Vulnerable Republican keeps focus as Democrats highlight Trump Bolton could be the first national security chief to prioritize religious freedom MORE (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 BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Trump adviser expected to leave White House, join Juul The Hill's 12:30 Report: McGahn inflames Dem divisions on impeachment MORE, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval MORE (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 RubioMarco Antonio RubioFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package MORE (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 McCainJohn Sidney McCainClimate change is a GOP issue, too It's Joe Biden's 2020 presidential nomination to lose Meghan McCain on Pelosi-Trump feud: 'Put this crap aside' and 'work together for America' MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Climate change is a GOP issue, too New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE (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 ChaffetzJason ChaffetzRepublicans spend more than million at Trump properties House Dems seek to make officials feel the pain Lawmakers contemplate a tough political sell: Raising their pay MORE (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.”