Washington, Nov. 14 (AP): President Barack Obama made his first public comments today on the growing scandal around two of the country’s most well-known generals, saying: “I have no evidence at this point that classified information was disclosed that in any way could have any impact on our national security.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers dug into the tangled tale of emails that exposed one general’s career-ending extramarital affair and the other’s questionable relationship with a Florida socialite. Their question: Was national security threatened?
Obama said he did not want to comment on the specifics of the investigation, and he said he hoped the scandal would be a “single side note” in Petraeus’s otherwise extraordinary career.
Obama brushed aside questions about whether he was informed about the FBI investigations that led to the disclosures quickly enough. “I have a lot of confidence generally in the FBI, and they have a difficult job,” he said. “It’s best right now for us to see how this process unfolds.”
The CIA’s acting director, Michael Morell, has started meeting top Senate intelligence officials to explain the agency’s take on the events that led to Petraeus’s resignation. 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.
Obama had hoped to use today’s 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 — the year-end, economy-jarring expiration of tax cuts Americans have enjoyed for a decade, combined with automatic across-the-board reductions in spending for the military and domestic programmes.
But the scandal threatens to overshadow Obama’s 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 and provide a leading voice in White House discussions on how many troops will remain in Afghanistan, and for what purposes, after US-led combat operations end in 2014.
The White House said the investigation would not delay Allen’s recommendation to Obama on the next phase of the US 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.
But Obama put on hold Allen’s nomination to become the next commander of US European Command as well as the Nato supreme allied commander in Europe, at the request of defence secretary Leon Panetta, until Pentagon investigators are able to sift through the 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails that involve Allen and Kelley.
Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today that he had “full confidence” in Allen and looked forward to working with him if he is ultimately confirmed. The FBI decided to turn over the Allen information to the military once the bureau recognised it contained no evidence of a federal crime, according to a federal law enforcement official.