For months, Donald Trump and his presidential campaign verbally pummeled his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, over disclosures that she transmitted classified information over an insecure, personal email account while serving as secretary of state, branding her “crooked Hillary.”
Now Trump is considering filling the same cabinet job with retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director in November 2012 amid an FBI investigation into his mishandling of classified information and his decision to lie when confronted about it – offenses that bureau Director James Comey characterized in July as a worse legal breach than Clinton’s.
The highly decorated Petraeus arrived at Trump Tower in New York on Monday for an interview with the president-elect. He is reportedly among several candidates to succeed Secretary of State John Kerry when Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president in January. Others include former 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Following the meeting, Petraeus told reporters: “I was with him for about an hour. He basically walked us around the world. Showed a great grasp of a variety of the challenges that are out there and some of the opportunities as well. Very good conversation and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
Petreaus got in trouble when he shared hundreds of classified documents with his biographer, Paula Broadwell of Charlotte, N.C., with whom he had an affair. While researching the book, Broadwell visited Petraeus in Afghanistan, where he headed U.S. forces.
More than 300 documents classified as secret were found in a search of Broadwell’s home computers in Charlotte, according to an FBI affidavit.
Broadwell, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, has never been accused of publishing any of the classified material in her 2012 book, “All In: The Education of David Petraeus.”
In 2015, Petraeus pleaded guilty in Charlotte to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling government documents and was fined $100,000. Broadwell was not charged, likely because she was acting as a journalist, which would have complicated any prosecution.
Choosing Petraeus could offer Trump a way to end a rift in his ranks over whether to select Romney or Giuliani.
In clearing Clinton last July after a lengthy investigation, Comey said he and other bureau officials had reviewed past prosecutions of government officials for mishandling of classified information.
He said that contrary to the evidence surrounding Clinton, all cases that led to prosecutions “involved clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information, or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct, or indications of disloyalty to the United States or efforts to obstruct justice.”
A spokeswoman for Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Broadwell has since founded a nonprofit group, Think Broader, dedicated to ending gender bias in the news media.
She declined to comment Monday on Petraeus’ potential return to public life.
But in response to a question as to whether she would like to serve in the new administration, she proposed creation of a new federal position.
“I’d be willing to serve as ambassador-at-large for women’s equality if asked by any president-elect,” she wrote.