A Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair

A Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair
© CIA photo

While former CIA Director David Petraeus is interviewing for a top job in the Trump administration, the woman he had an affair with is facing possible disciplinary actions from the Army.

The Pentagon decided in February it would not pursue any further punishment for Petraeus, but is now seeking to take actions against Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserves major, according to a defense official. 


Petraeus and Broadwell, both married, admitted to an extra-martial affair in 2012. They both have expressed regret, with Petraeus personally apologizing to Senate lawmakers during a hearing last year.

The official did not want to characterize what the pending actions are, and said Broadwell would be given an opportunity to respond or issue a rebuttal before making a final determination on disciplinary measures. 

The official cited mishandling classified material, as well as issuing threats, as some of the things she could be punished for. 

The disparity in treatment by the military of Petraeus and Broadwell has sparked criticism from some members of Congress.

“I think the two of them should be treated fairly, and there shouldn't be two standards,” Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillFor Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief Lobbying world Former McCaskill aides launch PAC seeking to thwart Hawley MORE (D-Mo.), who has championed the rights of women in the military, told The Hill. 

She said “questions would probably come up during his confirmation” hearing if Trump nominates Petraeus to a cabinet position. 

The general is thought to be one of four or five finalists to be President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE’s choice for secretary of State, and multiple Trump surrogates have publicly said it would be good if he returned to public service.

Petraeus was a four-star general serving as the commander of the Afghanistan War and Broadwell, an Army Reserve major and intelligence officer, was his biographer when they began a romantic relationship. He retired from the military in 2011 to become CIA director. 

Their affair came to light after Broadwell emailed Florida socialite Jill Kelley using a pseudonym and warned her to stay away from Petraeus. Kelley reported the allegedly threatening emails to the FBI, who investigated the emails and discovered the affair. The affair became public after Petraeus resigned as CIA director in 2012.  

A Justice Department investigation found that Petraeus had shared some of his notebooks with Broadwell that he had kept as a commander, for the purposes of the biography. The notebooks contained highly classified information, although none of it was published, and Broadwell had a security clearance. 

Petraeus pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. He was fined $100,000 and sentenced to two years of probation. 

Although he was also eligible for disciplinary action from the military, the Army last year recommended he face no further actions, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter in February agreed, outlining his decision in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainArizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Whoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated MORE (R-Ariz.) and Ranking Member Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE (D-R.I.), who both urged for Petraeus not be punished. 

Broadwell, who has asked that she be similarly exonerated, will likely face no such reprieve. She has already had a provisional promotion to lieutenant colonel retracted, as well as her security clearance, after the affair first came to light. 

She is currently assigned to Army Human Resources Command, and its commander, Army Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, is in charge of Broadwell's case. He recently finished reviewing Broadwell's case, including files from the Justice Department investigation, and is expected to notify Broadwell soon of what actions he may pursue, according to the official. 

The official who spoke to The Hill noted that Petraeus has already faced a federal prosecution and subsequent punishment, but that Broadwell has not. 

The Army did not comment on any pending disciplinary measures, but hinted they would be administrative measures, versus more serious steps such as a court martial. 

“As a longstanding practice, and to protect the privacy rights of those involved, the Army does not comment on administrative actions for those below the rank of general officer,” said Army spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith. 

“However, the Army does evaluate all allegations of misconduct on a case-by-case basis, and determines what type of disciplinary or administrative action is appropriate in a particular case based on the facts and circumstances of that case. Any further comment would be inappropriate.”

While Petraeus is still under probation, and his reputation suffered from the controversy, he has largely rebounded. He is chairman of the KKR Global Institute and advises the White House on national security policy. 

Now Petraeus may be close to returning to public service. He met with Trump this week.

Broadwell remains a military officer and has refrained from publicly speaking about any investigation she might be under, out of concern over reprisals. Although Broadwell submitted her resignation over the summer, it has not yet been approved. 

She has co-founded her own non-profit, the Think Broader Foundation, which is geared towards fighting discrimination against women in the media. 

She has pointedly sought to get news organizations to stop using the word “mistress” to describe a woman involved in a relationship with a married man. She has argued the use of the term is sexist, and her calls have been heeded by some news groups.

Colleagues of Broadwell's say FBI agents have called her a whistleblower for trying to stop other illicit activities by senior officials.

The Hill reached out to Broadwell for a comment but a response was not received in time for publication.

Broadwell discussed her life in a May interview to The New York Times. 

“My husband says I just need to walk away,” she said. “Some days I think, if I could just move on and it was never again in the news, I probably would. But I can’t. My fabric is to fight back.”

It's not completely clear yet if Petraeus can overcome his past to join Trump’s Cabinet.

His passing of classified material to Broadwell would surely be an issue for some in Congress, particularly after the controversy over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden must wait weekend for State Department pick Texas Supreme Court rejects Alex Jones request to toss lawsuits from Sandy Hook parents Paris Agreement: Biden's chance to restore international standing MORE’s private email arrangement, which was a major campaign issue used by Trump.

If selected, Petraeus would have to notify his probation officer within three days under the terms of his probation.

He also could also be subject to warrantless searches. And his probation officer would be able to access and review his computer and phone data at any point in time until the end of his sentence.  

On Thursday, Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda MORE (D-Del.) said his confirmation would be an “uphill battle.”

But three GOP senators spoke up for him, saying his past transgressions should not disqualify him, including a top GOP senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

“He said it was wrong, he accepted punishment for his wrongdoing, and that’s a well-defined issue," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February MORE (R-S.C.) said Thursday. "Does he have a life going forward? I think he does. … I would certainly support his nomination.”

Broadwell has not commented on the possibility of Petraeus joining the Trump administration, though she did tweet on Monday: “Since everyone is asking, I'd consider accepting Ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Equality if asked.”

The tweet, which elicited sympathetic responses from women, included a wink emoji.