The circle of congressional leaders who knew early on of a possible extramarital affair surrounding CIA Director David H. Petraeus appears to have been very small, with John A. Boehner’s office confirming that the speaker was told of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s knowledge of the situation after the news of Petraeus’ resignation broke.
The scandal that felled Petraeus’ storied military and intelligence career first came to light on Capitol Hill when an informant tipped a rank-and-file congressman off to the fact that Petraeus was having an affair.
According to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., was told in October by a friend that a whistle-blower had information that implicated Petraeus, the retired four-star general and top CIA official, in an extramarital affair that may also have involved a national security breach.
As first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by the source, Reichert directed the whistle-blower to Cantor. Cantor’s staff, and then the Virginia Republican himself, spoke with the informant. The source was then passed on to FBI Director Robert Mueller.
“I was contacted by an FBI employee concerned that sensitive, classified information may have been compromised and made certain Director Mueller was aware of these serious allegations and the potential risk to our national security,” Cantor said, in a statement provided to the Times.
According to the Times, Cantor’s chief of staff, Steve Stombres, called the FBI on Oct. 31 to tell them about the contact.
“Our office stands by the accuracy of the New York Times article as it pertains to Rep. Reichert. We have no further comment about our involvement,” said Reichert’s spokeswoman, Natasha Mayer.
Cantor’s office did not return multiple requests by Roll Call for comment.
Boehner’s office said the speaker believes Cantor acted appropriately with the information.
Reichert, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, does not currently sit on any intelligence-related panels, but in the 110th Congress, he was ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment and also sat on a subcommittee dealing with global counter-terrorism.
Petraeus was having an affair with his biographer, journalist Paula Broadwell. The information about the affair apparently came to light when the FBI investigated harassing emails Broadwell sent to another woman who knew both Broadwell and Petraeus. The FBI’s investigation into Broadwell’s email account eventually led them to Petraeus’ personal email account.
The other woman was identified as an unpaid social planner at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., where Central Command and Special Operations Command are located, according to the Associated Press.
Information from congressional leaders has been scant, trickling in as the political talk shows ended and the afternoon progressed.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.