Attorney General Eric Holder knew as early as late summer that former CIA Director David Petraeus was the subject of an FBI investigation that eventually uncovered an affair that Petraeus was having with his biographer, Fox News reported on Monday.
The revelation raises questions of whether Holder, already under fire for the botched “Operation Fast and Furious” gun-running scheme, should have – or even would have – told President Barack Obama once he was notified about the FBI investigation.
“The idea that the White House didn’t learn of this potential problem until Election Day, I just find incomprehensible,” John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under George W. Bush, told Fox News on Monday. “Did the attorney general sit on this information for two months?”
Bolton told Fox that it begged the question “of whether the information was suppressed.”
According to the White House, Obama did not find out about the Petraeus affair last Thursday when the highly decorated general met with him in the Oval Office.
But months earlier, when Holder was notified, many details were unknown, Fox reports.
Petraeus was interviewed in the fall – and a source told Fox that longstanding FBI policy prohibits the agency from briefing Congress or the White House while a criminal investigation is underway unless it involves a security threat.
Still, given that Petraeus came up in an investigation was enough reason to notify the White House, several congressmen told Fox.
“He was the director of the CIA, not Fish & Wildlife,” Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz told Fox. “The implications are massive.”
The heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees should have been informed, Chaffetz said. “Notification should have also gone to the president – immediately.”
Top congressional lawmakers, including the leaders of key committees, were also concerned about not being notified earlier, Fox reports.
Under the law, intelligence officials “shall” notify the congressional intelligence committees of “all intelligence activities” – though it could be contended that the matter did not rise to such a level, technically, Fox reports.
Sources told Fox that after the second and final FBI interview was conducted with Petraeus’ mistress, Paula Broadwell, the Friday before the presidential election, the agency formally concluded that no crimes had been committed.
Some classified documents were found on Broadwell’s computer, but nothing indicated that Petraeus was the source, Fox reports.
But The Wall Street Journal reported that a 2007 memo from Attorney General Michael Mukasey of the Bush administration prohibited Justice employees from disclosing pending criminal investigations to the White House or Congress, Fox reports.
Tom Dupree, former Bush deputy assistant attorney general, suggested to Fox, that, given the circumstances, Congress – and, perhaps, the White House – should have been informed.
“The attorney general – really it’s his obligation to notify the relative congressional committees,” Dupree told Fox. “And in some cases, the attorney general might want to notify the White House or loop in the White House so the White House is not caught off guard by this disclosure.
“But at the end of the day, something almost certainly would get elevated to the attorney general.”
And, among the new details reported by Fox on Monday were that the first knowledge of the affair outside the FBI came from an agency whistle-blower who contacted a Capitol Hill Republican lawmaker, who then told House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
A senior Obama administration official told Fox that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper first informed the White House about the situation last Wednesday.
From there, Petraeus on Thursday morning called National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to request a meeting with Obama, who was briefed on the situation by staff later that day before the meeting with Petraeus that afternoon.
Petraeus offered his resignation during the session. The president accepted it on Friday.