Congressman Pat Meehan wants to hear from David Petraeus — but not about the former CIA chief’s affair. Meehan, a Delaware County Republican, says Congress needs testimony from Petraeus on the American response to the September terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead, including ambassador Chris Stevens.
Any investigation into Petraeus’ affair will likely be brief, said Meehan, a member of the House Oversight Committee, which is reviewing the Benghazi response.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some cursory investigation as to whether there was anything inappropriate done. General Petraeus is a person whose career to this point has been rather exemplary. I don’t know if you’ll see any great amount of pressing if he’s able to demonstrate that nothing untoward happened as a result of that relationship,” Meehan said in an interview Monday,
But the investigation into the Benghazi attacks, and U.S. response, should go forward and could be less fraught with political weight now that Election Day is passed, Meehan said.
“This is better now because it does not have the implications of a political witch hunt, which it would be deemed to be by some in the context of an election,” he said in an interview Monday.
“It’s clear that there was a fair bit of real time information that was available to people back in Washington in the position to make decisions, and the narratives seem to be directed in different places — the State department, the CIA and the administration itself — not always being on exactly the same page,” Meehan said in an interview. “To me, personally, that is the greatest concern as to whether we have any kind of dysfunctionality in the relationship among those three entities because in a very dangerous world we need them to be working effectively and in coordination.”
The attacks were originally attributed to a spontaneous uprising, but the Obama administration later said it was a terrorist attack. The administration’s handling of security became a topic of intense debate during the presidential race, with Republicans faulting Obama but Democrats accusing the GOP of playing the incident for political advantage.
Petraeus’ resignation has shocked Washington and led to questions about why Congress wasn’t informed about an FBI investigation into his relationship sooner. As a former law enforcement official — Meehan was the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania before moving on to Congress — he said investigators try not to let their work influence elections. At the same time, he said Congress deserves to be notified when such a critical issue arises.
“The problem with all of this is it’s within the prism of a political campaign — that gives this a different perspective,” Meehan said. “You would hope that there wasn’t a delay in informing members of Congress because of concerns that it could impact a political cycle, but I’m more concerned about accurate and timely communication with people in Congress who need to know. We’re a co-equal branch of government.”
As for when investigators should go to officials with information, Meehan said it depends on the case and the specific circumstances.
“To some extent that can be a matter of judgment and as a former prosecutor there is generally an interest in not interfering with the political cycle,” he said. “Sometimes it’s unavoidable and sometimes things leak out notwithstanding, but again it’s fact specific.”