Evidence Emerges That GOP Leader Tried to Use Petraeus Affair to Hurt Obama Before Election
Photo Credit: AFP
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Amidst the sordid details of the high-ranking CIA sex scandal (that has now spread to an investigation of Jill Kelley, the woman who complained of being harassed by Gen. David Petraeus's mistress (Paula Broadwell), being involved in voluminous and questionable e-mail exchanges with the current commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen), one important political factor has emerged in the last day: Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor appears to have tried to put pressure on the FBI to advance the investigation, with the likely goal of an October surprise scandal that would have potentially harmed Obama's chance of re-election. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times provided insight into the Cantor involvement, with the Journal noting in the beginning of a November 12 article: A federal agent who launched the investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors' concerns that he was personally involved in the case, according to officials familiar with the probe. After being blocked from the case, the agent continued to press the matter, relaying his concerns to a member of Congress, the officials said. New details about how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handled the case suggest that even as the bureau delved into Mr. Petraeus's personal life, the agency had to address conduct by its own agent—who allegedly sent shirtless photos of himself to a woman involved in the case prior to the investigation. The Journal went on to reveal that the "The [shirtless photograph] agent is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI, according to two officials familiar with the matter." A quick recap is called for here. Some time earlier this year, the unidentified FBI agent filed an agency request to investigate alleged threatening e-mails from the mistress of Petraeus (then C.I.A. director) to one Tampa Bay resident Jill Kelley, a married socialite who is a "volunteer liaison" (whatever that means) with one of the most top secret military units (based in the Tampa area). The agent who sent shirtless photos of himself to Kelley, via a mobile phone one presumes, was obviously a close friend of hers. Jane Mayer of the New Yorker takes the political dimensions of the story from there: The [New York] Times uses the word “murky” to describe what happened next, and there are many puzzling aspects. But according to the Times, at the end of October, a week or so after the F.B.I. investigators confronted Petraeus, an unidentified F.B.I. employee took the matter into his own hands. Evidently without authorization, he went to the Republicans in Congress. First he informed a Republican congressman, Dave Reichert of Washington State. According to the Times, Reichert advised this F.B.I. employee to go to the Republican leadership in the House. The F.B.I. employee then told what he knew about the investigation to Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader. Cantor released a statement to the Times confirming that he had spoken to the F.B.I. informant, whom his staff described as a “whistleblower.” Cantor said, “I was contacted by an F.B.I. employee who was concerned that sensitive, classified information might have been compromised.” But what, exactly, was this F.B.I. employee trying to expose? Was he blowing the whistle on his bosses? If so, why? Was he dissatisfied with their apparent exoneration of Petraeus? Given that this drama was playing out in the final days of a very heated Presidential campaign, and he was taking a potentially scandalous story to the Republican leadership in Congress, was there a political motive? According to the Times, Cantor said he took the information, and “made certain that director Mueller”—that is Robert Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I.—“was aware of these serious allegations, and the potential risk to our national security.” This is a strange way to explain his contact with the F.B.I. on this matter, because it is almost inconceivable that director Mueller was not already aware that the bureau he runs had examined the e-mail account of the director of the C.I.A., and, further, confronted him in person. Such a meeting between the bureau and head of the C.I.A. would have been extraordinary, and it is fairly unthinkable that Mueller wouldn’t have been consulted. So what information was Cantor conveying when he got in touch with Mueller? The New York Times reports of an interesting wrinkle in the political implications of the conduct of the "shirtless" agent who seemed to be pursuing Mrs. Kelley and "advocating" on her behalf with keen interest: "Later, the agent became convinced — incorrectly, the official said — that the case had stalled. Because of his 'worldview,' as the [F.B.I.] official put it, he [the "shirtless" agent] suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama." Normally, it should be noted, the FBI does not become involved in investigating adulterous affairs of government officials unless there is proof that national security has been compromised. The unidentified "shirtless" F.B.I. agent now under investigation -- and his end run around the bureau through Eric Cantor during the days leading up to Election Day -- raise more serious issues than adulterous sex in terms of what appears to be a last ditch effort to influence a national election. Fortunately, Cantor didn't bully F.B.I. Director Mueller into an October Surprise revelation of Petraeus having had an adulterous affair. More may come out, given that Broadwell may have a penchant for wanting people to know that she has inside information (including her questionable public claim that the C.I.A. was holding prisoners in Benghazi) -- and that there are questions of whether any classified information was revealed or rendered vulnerable. But it would take a leap of unjustified faith to believe that Eric Cantor's telephone call to the head of the F.B.I. on Halloween was not an attempt to force the salacious scandal of lust (as it stands at this moment) to the front pages before the election. Fortunately, global warming's October surprise -- Hurricane Sandy -- trumped Cantor's inappropriate meddling into an FBI investigation for opportunistic political purposes likely aimed at influencing an election.