Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) challenged the GOP’s implications that the Obama administration or the FBI sat on the Gen. David Petraeus sex scandal until after the election, describing such claims underhanded and unsubstantiated.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday with retiring lawmakers Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Frank pushed back against Hutchison’s claims that “top level officials,” including the President, may have known about the scandal before Election Day. He pressed her to define her accusations and identify whose integrity she was impugning:
HUTCHISON: I’m very worried about this. I’m very worried. I want to know a whole lot more about what these first emails really were and did it really trigger an FBI investigation of the CIA director and a low level and it wasn’t raised to a higher level? I mean, if anybody is investigating the director of the CIA, the President of the United States should know immediately, and I feel like a, we don’t know enough, and, b, I have great concerns about a lot of this. [...]
FRANK: Are you suggesting there was some coverup, that the FBI are playing games? I think we ought to be explicit about this. I’m troubled by the implication of your statement and are you suggesting that something wasn’t legitimate here? Because that would trouble me.
HUTCHISON: I’m suggesting that I have great concerns about the legitimacy of…
FRANK: Excuse me, “great concerns” is kind of a weasel word….
HUTCHISON: …It appears the President didn’t know until two months later? ….
FRANK: It seems to me frankly you’re kind of hinting at something bad, and I don’t see what that could be.
HUTCHISON: I’m hinting at something out of control and not with the proper authority.
FRANK: Do you distrust the FBI? Is [FBI Director Robert] Mueller lying? Who are you accusing of not having done the right thing?
HUTCHISON: I’ve always had great respect for him and great respect for General Petraeus.
There is no evidence to suggest that the public timeline of the Petraeus scandal is improper. Attorney General Eric Holder defended his department’s handling of the investigation last week, noting that standard protocol prohibits DOJ from sharing information about pending investigations with members of Congress or the president, so long as they do not undermine national security. The rule, which has been in place since 1993, is designed to prevent politics from contaminating the process.
Justice Department officials had known about the investigation since the summer, but were told that the matter did not affect national security. Petraeus’s boss, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr, was notified about the affair on Election Day, after the FBI concluded its review. That night, Clapper advised Petraeus to resign.