WASHINGTON, (UPI) — U.S. lawmakers vow to dig into an FBI probe that led David Petraeus to quit the CIA, as a report said Paula Broadwell may not have sent probe-sparking emails.
At the same time, high-level FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials knew as far back as late summer about Petraeus’ extramarital affair with Broadwell, his biographer, government officials told The New York Times and other news organizations.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder knew about threatening email links to Petraeus at that time, The Wall Street Journal reported. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., learned about them in October, the Times, the Journal and other news organizations reported.
Cantor passed on the information he had to FBI Director Robert Mueller, evidently not knowing the FBI already knew about it, the news organizations said. But he didn’t tell the House Intelligence Committee or other key lawmakers then because he and other staffers didn’t know how credible the information was, Fox News reported.
Holder, Mueller and Cantor had no immediate comment.
Other top lawmakers said they were kept in the dark until just after the presidential election.
“We received no advance notice” of the FBI probe that revealed the affair between Petraeus, 60, who quit as CIA director Friday, and Broadwell, 40, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told “Fox News Sunday.”
“It was like a lightning bolt,” she said.
“This is something that could have had an effect on national security,” Feinstein said, and she was “absolutely” going to investigate why she, committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and perhaps other key lawmakers were not informed.
She said committee leaders are routinely made aware of investigations involving national security before they become public.
“We should have been told,” Feinstein said, explaining she learned about the probe from news-media inquiries Friday.
The Petraeus matter will now be part of a previously scheduled hearing before her committee Thursday, she said. The hearing is still expected to focus on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Feinstein said Petraeus’ resignation was “absolutely not” linked to the Benghazi attack, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The CIA has been criticized for providing a flawed early report about the nature of the attack.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., said the circumstances of the FBI probe appeared to be an attempt to conceal embarrassing or scandalous information.
“The FBI director had the obligation to tell the president or the National Security Council at the earliest state,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding the story so far “just doesn’t add up.”
The FBI probe stemmed from harassing emails initially reported to have been sent by Broadwell to a second woman, identified Sunday as Jill Kelley, 37, of Tampa, Fla.
Kelley — who volunteers at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, where the military’s Central Command, Special Operations Command Central and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency are based — told the FBI about the emails, suggesting they appeared to seek to blackmail Petraeus, triggering the probe, several news organizations reported.
Fox News said Sunday night the threatening emails might not have come from Broadwell, as widely reported. But the network did not say who might have sent them.
The nature of Kelley’s relationship with Petraeus, a retired four-star Army general married to his wife Holly for 37 years, is publicly unknown other than as a friendship.
Kelley and her husband, Dr. Scott Kelley, who have three children, said in a statement Sunday they wanted privacy and did not address their involvement in the FBI probe.
Broadwell is married to radiologist Scott Broadwell. The couple have two children.