Hardball | November 12, 2012
>>> petraeus' resignation last friday came as a shock to many in washington. petraeus stepped down after news of an extramarital affair broke out. here is what we know about the time line of how the events unfolded. back in early june the fbi began investigating what it-described as menacing e-mails sent anonymously to a woman close to petraeus . well, the e-mails allegedly came from paula broadwell who the fbi later discovered was having an affair with the cia director . well, the fbi wrapped its investigation on november 2nd after it interviewed petraeus and broadwell. but "the new york times" reports the fbi concluded there was no evidence petraeus committed any crime or breached any security problem. on election day the fbi notified james clapper , he's the director of national intelligence , about the investigation. the next day he told people in the white house . that was clapper. but the president wasn't informed until the following day, november 8th . lawmakers have expressed anger they weren't informed earlier about the investigation. here is dianne feinstein who chairs the senate intelligence committee today.
>> this thing just came so fast and so hard and since then it's been like peeling an onion. every day another peel comes off and you see a whole new dimension to this. so my concern has actually escalated over the last few days.
>> republican congressman peter king of new york said the timeline that he sees here doesn't add up.
>> once the fbi realized it was investigating the director of the cia or the cia director had come within the focus of 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. 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 , not the fbi was derelict in its duty.
>> what's really going on here? pete williams is nbc news justice correspondent. thank you, pete, for coming on. if there's no allegation of criminal wrongdoing, what's got congress all up in arms here?
>> well, i think it's a policy matter, chris. i think they believe that this is the kind of thing the president should have known, that the congressional committee should have known because they think there's the potential for trouble here. whenever somebody is having an affair, you heard what peter king just said. i can tell you what the justice department and the fbi say. they say a couple things. number one, they don't inform other agencies when they're in the middle of a criminal investigation . they were trying to figure out what this thing was and didn't really reach any conclusions until just before the election, a week or so before the elections. number two, they say that the statues that govern when congressional committees are informed say that they should be notified of all, quote, intelligence activities, and they could ncluded that the cia directors affair wasn't an intelligence activity. finally, ven, there's the fact that the affair apparently ended in july and some are saying that by telling the fbi about it, by admitting it to the fbi , he's basically taking away any possibility after that point he could be blackmailed. it really comes down to not a legal obligation but the policy question about whether congress should have been told almost anyway.
>> well, let me ask you -- you know the protocols and the ethics in these cases. is the dci, the director of sen krall intelligence, because of the nature of being a spy master, if something like this -- not to defend any kind of extramarital behavior. if something like this happened to another cabinet member , for example, would there been an automatic resignation? maybe there would be in the current environment. i can't tell anymore what the standards are sometimes.
>> well, you know, i don't know.
>> i mean it.
>> i doubt that. i think you're probably right. and certainly it doesn't apply to members of congress, but they're elected officials and these are appointed officials. the fbi basically says we decided to tell the dni, the director of national intelligence james clapper , when we were all done what happened here because we thought he should know as in essence a personnel matter. under the new system the director of the cia reports to clapper. clapper is his boss, and they thought that clapper should know. he controls the security clearances. let him make the significance about whether it was proper to keep david petraeus on the job. obviously clapper felt it wasn't and told petraeus he ought to resign.
>> i guess it's one of those cases once people know about it, the catch-22 is you have to do something about it or else you're part of the cover-up. maybe that's the way they look at it. pete williams , as always, thank you, sir.
>> that's right. do you have a thought?
>> i was going to say one other thing, by certainly mid to late october petraeus knows he's under investigation. he knows that the fbi knows about this. but he doesn't decide to go and tell the white house and offer to resign until clapper tells him to do so.
>> more information. thank you so much, pete, for that reporting. more on the politics of the petraeus scandal if you will. eugene robinson is an associate editor and columnist for "the washington post ." also an msnbc political analyst . gene, this sense here -- let me show you something. some are howling about the timing of the resignation. he was set to testify about benghazi . here is ralph peters , an analyst for fox news. this is what i'm talking about, this emerging conspiracy theory and here it is coming from fox. let's watch.
>> assage old intelligence analyst the way i read it, and i could be totally wrong, this is my interpretation is that the administration was unhappy with petraeus not playing ball 100% on their party line story. i think he was getting cold feet about testifying under oath and their party line story, and i suspect these tough chicago guys knew of this affair for a while, held it in their back pocket until they needed to play the card.
>> see, it's not dead yet, that point of view you're getting in that voice there. the dark, conspiratorial voice about these chicago guys. of course, beb ghazi is the biggest thing in the universe. here is bob woodward , your colleague, gene, he's reported the testimony would likely give support. petraeus ' testimony coming up next week was likely to support what happened as the administration described it. let's take a look at what bob said.
>> it turns out that petraeus a week and a half ago went to tripoli, libya, and conducted his own personal inquiry into benghazi , interviewed the station chief , actually got the base chief from benghazi down, interviewed him, interviewed the head i think twice of the quick reaction force that was involved in this episode, so he knows the full story.
>> what was going to be the takeaway from what petraeus who have presented had he testified?
>> i think it would have backed up the white house .
>> there you have it from the top investigative reporter in modern times , bob woodward , saying petraeus was basically on the side of the administration's point of view and what happened in benghazi and their reporting of it. now you have the rit wing already suggesting that he was basically snooped on and outed, if you will, in his affair to shut him up. they're already getting crazy about this thing, i think.
>> yeah. this has nothing to do with benghazi . first of all, petraeus has been very supportive, his version of events has been the white house version of events all along, and now that he's done this further investigation, i believe bob that he was going to support the white house . second, they can still call him. congress can call him to the hill as a private citizen or cia director or joe willy walking down the street. they have subpoena power. so that somehow this was supposed to shut him up is crazy. but, you know, what we have here is -- he's the head of the cia, so this immediately becomes a spy novel , and you're never going to convince people that there are coincidences in a spy novel . so the fact that the director of national intelligence hears about it on election day is always going to give rise to conspiracy theories .
>> well said. by the way, i think it's interesting what you raise there. i think this is what you said, that if you wanted to keep him on your side of the argument, if you wanted to keep him making your case, you wouldn't humiliate him and kick him out of office by betraying his personal relationship , his extramarital affair . that would be one way to enrage him.
>> no, you wouldn't do that. and what pete williams just pointed out i think is salient. petraeus kind of knew about this, so he made some decisions in october about not coming forward, not talking to the director of national intelligence , not talking to the white house . so at some point i suspect he's going to be asked questions about his role in ultimately disclosing this affair. he seems for obvious reasons not to have been anxious to do so.
>> oh, god. i guess everybody out there has a choice. either go pay the money to see "sky fall" the new bond movie or watch this story unfold. i hate to see people hurt on this. eugene robinson .