Petraeus resigned as CIA director last week after acknowledging an affair with writer Paula Broadwell. In briefings Friday with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the retired four-star general was apologetic and regretful and insisted that his resignation was related only to his personal behavior.
Paula Broadwell, who was writing a book about Petraeus and eventually became his paramour, attended meetings in June 2009 and June 2011 on Afghanistan-Pakistan policy in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is located in the White House complex, a White House official said.
Jill Kelley, the Tampa, Fla., socialite who initiated the investigation that revealed the affair, and her twin sister had two “courtesy” meals at the White House mess as guests of a midlevel White House aide in September and October, the official said. Kelley and her family also received a White House tour on the weekend before the Nov. 6 election.
The White House visits by Broadwell and Kelley illustrate the wide-ranging access both women enjoyed because of their ties with Petraeus, Gen. John Allen and others in the close-knit military community. The White House official discussed their visits on condition of anonymity because the visitors logs being cited have yet to be made public.
The FBI began an investigation after Kelley turned over anonymous emails that had been sent to her and Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Kelley was a friend of both Petraeus and Allen and had become a social liaison between the Tampa civilian community and the military at MacDill Air Force Base.
One anonymous email traced to Broadwell warned Allen to stay away from Kelley. FBI agents ultimately found emails between Petraeus and Broadwell that led them to believe the two were having an affair.
Kelley did not meet with any senior White House officials during any of her visits, the White House official said. The midlevel aide who hosted Kelley had met the Kelley family at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, said the White House official, who would not identify the aide.
Kelley boasted about her White House visits in emails to acquaintances. In an email to a Tampa Bay Times reporter on Sept. 28, published by the newspaper, Kelley wrote: “Btw I was made the (honorary) Ambassador to US Central Command’s Coalition!” she told a Times reporter in a Sept. 28 email. “In addition to that, I was just recently appointed to be the Honorary Consulate General to South Korea! I’m in DC today — just left from breakfast at the White House. . . . I really hope to see you soon!”
Days before the Petraeus scandal broke, Kelley emailed Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn: “I was at the WH with my friends in the Administration this weekend — the stress was surreal!” she wrote. “But glad POTUS has been reelected!”
As for Broadwell, she at no time set foot in the Executive Mansion, the White House official said. Her June 2009 visit was to meet a national security staffer working on Afghanistan-Pakistan policy matters. In the June 2011 visit, Broadwell was one of 20 participants in a briefing on Afghanistan-Pakistan policy that occurred shortly before Obama delivered a national address announcing the start of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.
The White House official said that meeting was not listed in public White House visitor logs because it met a national security exemption to White House disclosure policy.
Largely out of public view in the week since his resignation, Petraeus was whisked into private meetings with lawmakers Friday amid the sort of clandestine atmosphere that befits a spy. A network of underground hallways was used to smuggle the retired general into a secure room beneath the Capitol to escape a clamorous crowd of photographers and television cameras. Police closed down entire corridors in the Capitol.
Members of Congress said the arrangements were designed to spare Petraeus embarrassment and humiliation. Before the scandal, he famously cultivated personal relationships with journalists and walked through the front door of the Capitol and greeted reporters when visiting Congress.
After more than four hours, Petraeus left the Capitol much the way he entered and was seen departing in a two-vehicle motorcade. About 20 minutes later, The Associated Press photographed Petreaus entering his home — one of the only public images of him since he resigned.
In separate briefings with members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, Petraeus discussed the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead. He did not discuss his adultery with Broadwell, except to say that he regretted his behavior and that his departure was unrelated to the deadly violence in Libya.
“He was very clear his resignation was tied solely to his personal behavior,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “He was apologetic and regretful but still Gen. Petraeus.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate committee, apologized to reporters and photographers for the stringent security.
“I know that’s rankling you,” Feinstein said. “We didn’t want to make it any more difficult for him. And you know, you people aren’t always the easiest. So the blame is on us. Any waiting that you did, I apologize, but, you know, there’s a lot of suffering going on.”
Feinstein said no senators asked Petraeus about the affair.
Petraeus, 60, publicly acknowledged last week that he had cheated on his wife of 38 years with Broadwell, 40. It wasn’t until Oct. 26 that Petraeus acknowledged the affair to FBI agents, during their only interview of him, a federal law enforcement official disclosed Friday. The official was not authorized to speak on the record about the ongoing case and requested anonymity for that reason.
The FBI began investigating the case against Broadwell last summer but didn’t notify the White House or Congress until after the election.
In the investigation, the FBI uncovered flirtatious emails between Allen and Kelley, both of them married. On Friday, two U.S. officials said investigators have found just a handful of the emails between Allen and Kelley to be potentially problematic. They said investigators determined the vast majority of the 20,000-plus pages of documents were routine. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.
Obama has put a promotion nomination for Allen on hold. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are expected to meet next week to discuss the recent stumbles of two of the military’s top generals, said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of U.S. Naval Operations. The joint chiefs want to review ethics, accountability and behavioral issues and determine whether senior officials are living up to the military’s standards, Greenert said Friday at the National Press Club.
The midlevel White House aide who hosted Kelley at the Executive Mansion had met her at MacDill Air Force Base, the White House official said.
Petraeus, in his first media interview since he resigned, told CNN this week that he had never given classified information to Broadwell. She has said she didn’t receive such material from Petraeus. But the FBI found a substantial number of classified documents on Broadwell’s computer and in her home, according to the law enforcement official, and is investigating how she got them. The Army has now suspended her security clearance.
The official outlined new details Friday of the timing of the FBI investigation that showed that agents spent the summer making certain no one had hacked into Petraeus’ computers to track his movements — a potential national security vulnerability raised by some of the first emails they saw in the case. They also used the summer to rule out any possibility he somehow participated in harassing Kelley by email.
Only after that, in early fall, Broadwell was interviewed for the first time by the FBI and agents searched her computers and found substantial amounts of classified documents, the law enforcement official said. The focus of the investigation shifted and agents spent most of October working with the Pentagon to determine where she got the documents, their significance and her right to have them.