Petraeus, Facing Possible Criminal Charges, Has Congress on His Side
Policy + Politics

Petraeus, Facing Possible Criminal Charges, Has Congress on His Side

The news that Justice Department prosecutors are reportedly recommending that retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus be charged with a felony for providing classified information to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he had an extramarital affair, is not sitting well with lawmakers of both parties.

Married for nearly 40 years, Petraeus was forced to resign as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2012 after it was revealed he was having an affair with Broadwell. He’s been under investigation by the FBI since then. Last week, The New York Times reported information leaked from the Justice Dept. suggesting prosecutors had recommended to the attorney general that Petraeus – a former four-star general who commanded forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan – face felony charges for providing classified information to Broadwell.

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Petraeus and Broadwell have both denied he ever provided such information to her. They pointed out that Broadwell herself had security clearances that allowed her access to certain classified information.

Whether Petraeus is guilty of any criminal charges or not, lawmakers expressed anger over his treatment by the DOJ.

“Is it appropriate to leak information that is supposed to be kept sealed until a decision is made?” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “It’s a violation of any citizen’s rights to have that information leaked, much less … a genuine American hero.”

McCain, who recently took over as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “I don’t know if he’s guilty or innocent.” He would not express an opinion on whether an indictment was appropriate or not, saying he did not have enough information.

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However, he said, “One of the great honors of my life is to have known some great military leaders. This man is unique. He is one of the great military leaders -- ask anybody who served under him. He was the architect of the surge that turned Iraq around. He may have saved thousands of young Americans’ lives.”

He continued, “Obviously he deserves better than to have information leaked to The New York Times about a recommendation which is a violation of his rights and any citizen’s rights.” 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who until last week chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, was even more dismissive of the report. While admitting she doesn’t have all the facts in the case, she still said charges should not be filed against the retired general.

“Let me say what I think,” she said on CNN. “This man has suffered enough in my view. He’s the four-star general of our generation. I saw him in Iraq. He put together the army field manual; he put together the [Sunni] awakening and how it worked out. He, I think, is a very brilliant man.”

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She continued, “People aren’t perfect. He made a mistake. He lost his job as CIA director because of it. I mean, how much do you want to punish somebody?” 

She added, “It’s done. It’s over. He’s retired. He’s lost his job. I mean, how much does government want?” 

CNN host Gloria Borger followed up: “I hear you saying that he shouldn’t be indicted?”

“I think that’s correct,” said Feinstein. 

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Attorney General Eric Holder, the man who could well make the final decision about any Petraeus prosecution, appeared on several Sunday shows in connection with his trip to Paris to participate in a march protesting the recent terrorist attacks in that city.

Holder, who has announced his resignation and whose potential successor, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch, is currently awaiting Senate confirmation, was steadfastly unwilling to address the issue. “I don’t want to comment on what is an ongoing matter,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

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