(WASHINGTON) — While the FBI was investigating the director of the CIA, a top U.S. general and a Florida socialite, Congress was — for a while — left in the dark. The affair only came to light when a whistleblower called his congressman.
The scandal that led to the resignation of David Petraeus and put a hold on the Senate confirmation of a top U.S. general has raised questions about the separation of powers, and has caused some lawmakers to bristle that they were not told of the FBI’s investigation sooner.
Brian Darling, senior government fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said some members of Congress were relying on the media for information that they should have been briefed on.
The sex scandal has also robbed intelligence committees of Petraeus’ testimony about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That attack claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. Petraeus had personally flown to Libya on a fact-finding mission in late October.
Top voices on the Hill are divided over what Gen. David Petraeus’ next steps should be.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters it remained to be seen whether Congress should have been informed about the FBI investigation into Petraeus’ extramarital affair earlier, but said she expected it was not of high enough importance to require they be briefed.
“I think there’s some answers that we have to have about notification to Congress. I don’t have any reason to think that there are any national security issues at stake in what has transpired,” Pelosi said at a ceremony welcoming new Democrats to Congress. “I think some dishonorable things were done, and the honorable thing has to be to resign or not to go forward.”
But Darling said Pelosi was wrong in saying Petraeus’ personal indiscretion did not affect national security.
“Clearly, Congress should have been informed, and there’s evidence that some members of Congress were informed before the elections,” Darling said. “A scandal like that, which could impact the way that a CIA director operates, should be shared with Congress.”
Pelosi did not mention the one aspect of Petraeus’ affair that plagues many of her colleagues: his exclusion from testimony on the attack in Benghazi.
Republican senators and representatives — and at least one top Democrat — have urged the former Afghanistan general to testify, despite his resignation from his post as CIA director.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it was “absolutely imperative” for the Senate to hear from Petraeus.
“There are so many unanswered questions at this point,” Collins said outside her office Tuesday morning. “I will say that it is absolutely imperative that Gen. Petraeus come and testify. He was CIA director at the time of the attack. He visited Libya after the attack. He has a great deal of information that we need in order to understand what went wrong.”
Petraeus was scheduled to testify at a Senate Intelligence hearing on Benghazi, set for 2:30 p.m. Thursday, but because of his resignation in light of the disclosure of his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, Petraeus will no longer speak. Acting CIA Director Mike Morell will appear in his place at the closed-door hearing.
Senate Intelligence Committee members are likely to meet casually on Wednesday to discuss what to do next regarding Petraeus, according to an aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. But so far, no additional meetings or hearings have been scheduled in regards to Petraeus’ extramarital affair, nor Benghazi.
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