WASHINGTON — Responding warily to his administration's sudden sex scandal, President Barack Obama said Wednesday he's seen no evidence that national security was damaged by the revelations that ended his CIA director's career and imperil that of his Afghan war commander.
But the president said he is reserving judgment about how the FBI has handled the investigation that began in the summer but didn't reach his desk until after last week's election.
As Obama spoke about the scandal from the White House, legislators on Capitol Hill were grilling FBI and CIA officials privately about the same issues: whether national security was jeopardized by the case and why they didn't know about the investigation sooner.
I have no evidence at this point, from what I've seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security, Obama said at his first postelection news conference.
As for the FBI's handling of the matter, Obama said: My expectation is that they follow the protocols that they've already established. One of the challenges here is that we're not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations, and that's been our practice.
Federal law enforcement officials have said the FBI didn't inform the White House and Congress sooner about the original investigation because of rules set up after the Watergate scandal to prevent interference in criminal investigations, and that lawmakers weren't given notice of potential national security problems because the bureau had quickly resolved them.
CIA Director David Petraeus resigned Friday, two days after the White House was notified that he'd acknowledged having an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
The FBI's investigation of the matter began last summer, after Broadwell allegedly sent harassing, anonymous emails to a woman she apparently saw as a rival for Petraeus' affections. That woman, Florida socialite Jill Kelley, in turn had traded sometimes-flirtatious messages with the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.
Kelley's complaints about the threatening emails triggered the FBI investigation that led to the resignation of Petraeus and the inquiry into her communications with Allen.
Word surfaced Wednesday that Kelley's pass to enter MacDill Air Force Base in Florida had been indefinitely suspended, a decision made at the base level.
FBI Director Robert Mueller and Deputy Director Sean Joyce met privately with legislators on both sides of the Capitol on Wednesday to explain how the investigation unfolded.
The questioning on Capitol Hill will continue today.