Holder was told by the FBI that they were investigating the relationship between the director of the CIA and Paula Broadwell in late summer, but appears not to have shared the information with anyone else.
The revelation that the Attorney General knew about Petraeus’ infidelity could increase pressure on Obama to replace him when he puts together his Cabinet for the next four years.
The FBI started probing emails sent by Broadwell to Jill Kelley, a family friend of Petraeus, in May 2012, and soon discovered that she had been in a romantic relationship with the decorated former general.
Towards the end of the summer, they contacted Holder’s office in order to seek the authority to interview Broadwell and Petraeus.
The Attorney General, a longtime ally of Obama, must have known about the affair from this point, but did not tell the President about it despite the possibility it could end the career of Petraeus, one of the most respected soldiers of his generation.
Conservatives – who have long opposed Holder over his role in the botched ‘Fast and Furious’ gun-running investigation – attacked the Attorney General over his silence.
‘The idea that the White House didn’t learn of this potential problem until Election Day, I just find incomprehensible,’ John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN, told Fox News. ‘Did the Attorney General sit on this information for two months?’
Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz added, ‘Notification should have also gone to the President – immediately.’
White House officials learned of the scandal on Wednesday evening – the first time Obama had any inkling of the turmoil which was about to hit the CIA.
Petraeus met with the President on Thursday to offer his resignation, which was officially accepted on Friday.
Top members of Congress have also spoken of their anger at being kept in the dark over the affair – even though Republican leader Eric Cantor knew about it nearly two weeks before Petraeus quit.
Even the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, who have worked closely with Petraeus in the past, were left to learn of the resignation from the news media.
In addition to their displeasure at being left in the dark until just hours before Petraeus made his very public announcement on Friday, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are concerned that the timeline of the various notifications was purposefully slowed down to allow for some degree of a cover-up over Petraeus’ scheduled testimony.
The timing of the Petraeus resignation and this week’s Benghazi hearings means the two issues have, for now, become inextricably linked.
As CIA director, Petraeus is understood to have interviewed the CIA base chief and head of the CIA response team about what happened in Benghazi when Ambassador Chris Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith and CIA contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed.
Some Republicans have suggested there might be a cover-up over Benghazi or that the news was held back until after the election.
General Michael Hayden, former CIA chief, said the timing of the resignation was ‘mysterious’. He told Fox News: ‘Hanging out there is the requirement in law to keep the intelligence committees fully and currently informed about significant intelligence activity.
‘It’s not surprising that Senator Feinstein and Chairman Rogers have shown a lot of pique at not being let in on this a bit earlier.’
According to the FBI, their investigation began in the spring when Jill Kelley, described as an an unofficial ‘social liaison’ to the Joint Special Operations Command in Tampa, told a friend in the FBI that she had received harassing emails from another woman.
Kelley, who is Lebanese-born, and her husband Scott were friend of Petraeus, 60, and his wife Holly. The FBI investigation established that Broadwell, 40, a married mother of two, had sent the emails.
In monitoring Broadwell’s emails, it was discovered that she was receiving emails of a sexual nature from a mysterious gmail account.
It was eventually discovered that the mysterious emails were from Petraeus, who admitted the affair.
On October 31st, however, and before anyone else on Capitol Hill or in the White House knew, the FBI friend of Kelley contacted Representative Dave Reichert regarding concerns about national security and asking for a member of the Republican congressional leadership.
Reichert directed the FBI man to Representative Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip, who spoke to him and then informed the FBI of the conversation.
Broadwell was interviewed again on November 2nd, at which time the FBI is said to have concluded that no charges would be brought either for cyber stalking or security breaches.
Petraeus has told friends he did not have an affair with Kelley, 37, a mother of three. In a statement issued on Sunday, Kelley asked for privacy for her and her family and neither confirmed nor denied an affair.
Speaking on CBS, Senator Lindsey Graham, a personal and confidant of Petraeus, said: ‘Well, if there’s no effect of the affair on national security, I think we need to move on. But at the end of the day, the one thing that has to happen, in my view, is we’ve got to get to the bottom of Benghazi.
‘I hate what happened to General Petraeus for his family and the families for those involved, but we have four dead Americans in Benghazi. We have a national security failure long in the making.
‘I don`t see how in the world you can find out what happened in Benghazi before, during, and after the attack if General Petraeus doesn`t testify, so from my point of view, it`s absolutely essential that he give testimony before the Congress so we can figure out Benghazi.
He added: ‘I would suggest that we have a joint select committee of House and Senate members and we do this together, not have three different committee going off in three different directions, so we can get to the bottom of it like we did in Watergate and Iran Contra. I think that would be smart for the Congress to combine resources.’
Just as with Watergate, the central issue over events surrounding Petraeus’ resignation is crystallising into something similar to the one Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee famously asked during the Watergate hearings: ‘What did the President know and when did he know it.’
Neither Robert Mueller, FBI director, not Eric Holder, attorney general, has commented on when they learned of the investigation. Both the FBI and Justice Department has said no one in the White House was told of the investigation until last week.
Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor, compared what happened in Benghazi to Watergate and told Fox News it was essential Petraeus testified. Even though he is now a private citizen, Petraeus can be compelled to appear.
‘The frustration is justified,’ Giuliani said. ‘And it’s in the national interest. Now we’re going to have a hearing next week, and the man who knows the facts, David Petraeus – he’s the only man who can really tell us what the CIA knew, what they did, why they did it, how they did it. He’s not going to testify.
‘And this is a very convenient way to get the administration out of a very, very difficult situation. But is inevitable. This is like Watergate. This is inevitable. This is all going to come out.
‘It may take a month, it may take five months, but this is all going to come out. And every single new cover-up they do just makes it much, much worse.’
Representative Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on MSNBC that the FBI was ‘derelict in its duty’ when it failed to tell the White House immediately when it learned of Petraeus’s affair.
‘Once the FBI realised that it was investigating the director of the CIA or the CIA director had come within its focus or its scope, I believe at that time they had an absolute obligation to tell the president. Not to protect David Petraeus, but to protect the president.
‘The fact is he is a key part of the president’s foreign policy team, maybe more than any other CIA director in recent times.
‘He was going around the world negotiating various understandings and agreements, I’m aware of that.
‘And to have someone out there in such a sensitive position who the FBI thought perhaps could have been compromised or was under the scope of an FBI investigation who may or may not have been having an affair at the time, that to me had to have been brought to the president or certainly to the National Security Council. If not, the FBI was derelict in its duty.’
He added: ‘This is a crisis, I believe, of major proportions. This is not the usual political thing. We’re not talking about the secretary of commerce or some under secretary somewhere.’
Source: The Daily Mail