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Lawmakers probe widening Petraeus sex scandal

  • In this Feb. 1, 2009 file photo, Gen. David Petraeus, commander U.S. Central Command, left, stands with his wife Holly before the NFL Super Bowl XLIII football game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are digging into the tangled tale of emails that exposed an extramarital affair ending David Petraeus' CIA career and led investigators to a questionable relationship between a Florida socialite and the general commanding the war in Afghanistan.

Their main question: Was national security threatened?

The extramarital affair was between Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell, who U.S. officials say sent harassing, anonymous emails to a woman she apparently saw as a rival for Petraeus' affections. That woman, Jill Kelley, in turn traded sometimes flirtatious messages with Gen. John Allen, possible evidence of another inappropriate relationship.

The CIA's acting director, Michael Morell, started answering lawmakers' questions Tuesday on Capitol Hill, meeting with top Senate intelligence officials to explain the CIA's take on events that led to Petraeus' resignation last week after he acknowledged the affair. The lawmakers are especially concerned over reports that Broadwell had classified information on her laptop, though FBI investigators say they concluded there was no security breach.

President Barack Obama is expected to make his first comments on the widening scandal Wednesday, during a postelection news conference at the White House.

Obama had hoped to use the afternoon news conference, his first since his re-election, to build support for his economic proposals heading into negotiations with lawmakers on the so-called fiscal cliff. But the scandal could overshadow his economic agenda this week, derail plans for a smooth transition in his national security team and complicate war planning during a critical time in the Afghanistan war effort.

Allen has been allowed to stay in his job as commander of the Afghan war and provide a leading voice in White House discussions on how many troops will remain in Afghanistan — and for what purposes — after the U.S.-led combat operation ends in 2014. The White House said the investigation would not delay Allen's recommendation to Obama on the next phase of the U.S. troop drawdown from Afghanistan, nor would it delay the president's decision on the matter. Allen's recommendation is expected before the end of the year.

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