William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE NEW WATERGATE? – AT 8:34 A.M. ET:  One key question about the Petraeus scandal is whether it will become Obama's Watergate.  Republicans would love it.  They are angry and even bitter over the results of the election, and believe that this president was, once again, treated with kid gloves by the media.  Now, only days after the election, they are handed a scandal with serious national-security implications.  And we once again hear the question, as we did 40 years ago at Watergate, "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

Ron Kessler, a distinguished investigative reporter, nails it at Newsmax:

FBI agents investigating CIA Director David Petraeus's affair were shocked when told by bureau officials that despite the national security implications, no action would be taken on their findings until after the presidential election: Only then would President Obama ask for Petraeus’ resignation.

The White House claims President Obama and his national security advisors were first informed of the Petraeus' affair on Thursday, two days after the election.

But the official timeline strains credulity. Senior FBI officials suppressed disclosure of the highly sensitive case, apparently to avoid embarrassment to Obama during his re-election campaign.

On Oct. 10, I was contacted by a longtime FBI source who told me that a bureau investigation had uncovered Petraeus’ affair with a journalist and that it could potentially jeopardize national security.

The veteran agent related to me that FBI agents assigned to the case were outraged by what were they were told by senior officials: The FBI was going to hold in limbo their findings until after the election.

“The decision was made to delay the resignation apparently to avoid potential embarrassment to the president before the election,” an FBI source told me. “To leave him in such a sensitive position where he was vulnerable to potential blackmail for months compromised our security and is inexcusable.”

My source said the FBI had been investigating the matter since last spring and the probe was considered among the most sensitive investigations the bureau was handling.

Both FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and the Justice Department were aware of the investigation, according to my source. The source did not specifically know whether Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder or FBI Director Mueller had given the order to delay taking action until after the election.

However, Mueller meets at least once a week with the president and routinely informs him of highly sensitive investigations and threats. An FBI investigation of the CIA director should have been at the top of that list.

In fact, it would have been a scandal if the FBI had not informed the president or the attorney general of an investigation of the CIA director.

And...

In my opinion, Mueller is a man of impeccable integrity. He would not have acquiesced to delaying action on the bureau’s findings unless ordered to do so by the attorney general or by the president.

Since this was not a criminal matter, Mueller may have justified his decision by saying it is up to the government agency who employs the individual or the White House to take action. But the decision to delay action on the Petraeus case — when the fact that he had placed himself in a compromising position was known by the FBI for months — clearly created a security risk.

As FBI agents and CIA officers tell me, such a delay could have meant that foreign intelligence service officers or criminals who may have learned of the affair could have blackmailed Petraeus into giving up the country’s most sensitive secrets. Given his position, those secrets would have included penetrations of Russian communications, bugging of foreign embassies, identities of assets risking their lives to give the U.S. valuable information on terrorists, and identities of terrorists who are about to be killed by drones.

COMMENT:  The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, pledged yesterday that she would be asking questions about the Petraeus scandal as she probes the Benghazi incident that took the lives of four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya.  Frankly, I didn't sense much spine in her comments.  She's a Democrat.

We look to the GOP-controlled House for a tougher probe.  And you may be sure that Republicans are already dreaming, and appropriately so, of major, televised hearings.  Never underestimate the show-business aspects of these things.  Watergate was a great show.  It brought down a president, and helped build the career of a young staff lawyer named Hillary Clinton.  And what television news executive, except those trapped by their in-the-tank loyalty to the president, wouldn't dream of a hearing, televised in prime time, in which Paula Broadwell herself was called to testify.  There are soap operas, and there are real soap operas.

It was during the original Watergate hearings in the Senate, presided over by grandfatherly Sam Ervin of North Carolina, that we learned of the taping system in the Nixon White House.  Those tapes made history, and revealed a dark, bigoted, bitter president.  What will new hearings reveal?  I don't know, but I do sense that some people want some real payback in Washington these days.

November 12,  2012