Disgraced former CIA Director David Petraeus was under the microscope on Friday, testifying behind closed doors before congressional lawmakers about the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
His testimony comes just one week after he resigned over an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
The attack in Libya killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. The GOP is up in arms, claiming the Obama Administration misled the public on what really happened.
Initially, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said the attack was in response to an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S., rather than a pre-planned terrorist attack. That turned out to be false, although Rice and President Obama insist that she was simply offering the public the best information she had at the time.
Petraeus’ Q&A was behind closed-doors on Friday, but details are already starting to spill. Here’s what we know so far:
1. Petraeus says that he insisted that the siege was a terrorist attack from the start: Rep. King
According to House Intelligence Committee member Rep Peter King (R-N.Y.), who spoke to reporters after the hearing, Petraeus testified that immediately after Sept. 11 “he had told us that this was a terrorist attack, that terrorism was involved from the start.” But King said he had a “very different recollection” of what the four-star general told the panel immediately after the attack.
“The clear impression that we were given was that this overwhelming amount of evidence was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack,” King said.
2. Petraeus said “there were extremists” in the group that launched the attack: Rep. Ruppersberger
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said Petraeus reinforced the fact that in the first 24 hours, officials did believe it was a protest as a result of the film. He clarified that as more information came in, there “was not a protest” but extremists involved, including Al-Qaeda affiliates.
3. Petraeus’ affair was mentioned only at the beginning of the hearing: Rep. King
King added that the only time Petraeus’ mistress or the affair was brought up was at the beginning of the testimony. It was made “clear at the start that would not be the focus of the questioning,” he said. Ruppersberger said Petraeus apologized for the affair but said it had nothing to do with how he handled the situation in Libya.
4. Petraeus talked about how inadequate security was at the consulate: Rep. Rooney
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told MSNBC that he learned from the Petraeus testimony just how shoddy security was at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. “We had less than a handful of security there for the ambassador,” Rooney said. “First of all, I don’t know why the ambassador was there on 9/11 to begin with, but that’s a whole other story.” Rooney said embassy staff was largely relying on local Libyan militia who were “nowhere to be found” when the attack occurred.
5. Petraeus was eager and willing to share his views on Benghazi: Sen. Feinstein
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein told NBC News that Petraeus was eager to share his opinions on what happened in Libya. “We didn’t want to make it any more difficult for him…We wanted to spare him,” the California lawmaker said, adding “there’s a lot of suffering going on.”
6. Petraeus’ testimony was “comprehensive”: Sen. McCain
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona—who has been spearheading a move to hold Watergate-style hearings about Benghazi—called Petraeus’ responses “comprehensive.”
“I think it was important; it added to our ability to make judgments about what is clearly a failure of intelligence and described his actions and that of his agency,” the senator said. “I appreciate his service and his candor.”
Tune into Hardball at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. EST. We’ll have Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House intelligence committee, to tell us the latest.