WASHINGTON – Gen. David Petraeus assured lawmakers Friday that the extramarital affair that forced him out of office a week ago would not affect his ability to provide accurate details about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Appearing on Capitol Hill for the first time since he resigned as CIA director, Petraeus was “asked at the start” if his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell would have “any impact on his testimony,” according to Rep. Peter King.
“He said no,” said King, the New York Republican who sits on the House Intelligence committee.
“The General did not address any specifics of that affair,” said Rep. Jim Langevin.
“What he did say in his opening statement was that he regrets the circumstances that led to his resignation,” Langevin added.
After Petraeus’ initial remarks about the affair, lawmakers were barred from asking any more details. “Any question on that subject was off limits, according to the chairman of the committee,” Florida Rep. Bill Young told reporters after the hearing.
“It was made clear at the start that would not be the focus of the questioning and I would say 10 seconds into it that was off to the side,” King said.
“Again, it was very cordial if you will,” King said. “General Petraeus is an outstanding patriot. We shook hands before and afterwards. We all thanked him for his service.”
The Republican congressman said Petraeus didn’t seemed worn down by the scandal that has dominated the news cycle this week. “He was very professional,” King said. “Very knowledgeable. Very strong.”
Dozens of reporters camped outside the Capitol Hill hearing room where Petraeus testified early Friday morning. The former CIA director never showed himself, apparently entering and exiting through back rooms.
Petraeus faced more questions about the attack on the consulate in Benghazi that left the American ambassador and three others dead.
“We learned the CIA’s observations, their involvement, and what their time line was — not necessarily agreeing with some of the other things we’ve heard from other agencies,” Young said. “I still think there are a lot of questions that have not been answered about this entire effort, this entire disaster that happened in Benghazi.”
King suggested that the testimony Petraeus gave today was somewhat different from that which he gave on September 13, when he last testified before Congress. “General Petraeus testimony today was that from the start, he had told us that this was a terrorist attack.”
“I had a different recollection of that,” King said, explaining that the “clear impression we were given” from early testimony “was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and that it was not a terrorist attack.”
“As initial reports came in, they were still assessing the situation and they were trying to get the details right and the initial assessments that they gave were based on the best information that they had at the time,” said Langevin, asked about the disparities. “And as more intelligence came in from various sources, it allowed for greater clarity and more full understanding of actually what happened in Benghazi.”
“His initial assessments were that there were various elements that were involved in this — and I’m not going to get into the specifics of what groups he assessed — but there were numerous, numerous elements, numerous factions that could be involved in this attack,” Langevin said.