Shamed CIA boss David Petraeus has spoken out for the first time since his affair with his biographer became public, forcing him to resign – and revealed he is determined to make his marriage work.
Breaking his silence almost a week after he dramatically stepped down, Petraeus also revealed he has not spoken to his mistress, Paula Broadwell, since the scandal emerged and denied he had ever given her classified military documents.
He maintained that his shock resignation on Friday had nothing to do with hearings about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which he was due to testify at this week.
Instead, Petraeus, speaking with HLN reporter Kyra Phillips, said he stepped down as he was deeply remorseful about the affair and the only honourable thing left to do was to admit his failings.
And, relaying her conversations with Petraeus to HLNon Thursday, Phillips said he was now focusing on repairing the damage inflicted on his family, including his two adult children, Anne and Stephen.
He admitted to her that he had ‘screwed up terribly’ and that he ‘felt fortunate to have a wife who is far better than he deserves,’ Phillips said.
‘He knows he made a big mistake,’ she said. ‘He does want to move forward making things work with his family. He doesn’t want to throw 37 years out the window with his wife.’
‘This woman is strong,’ she added of Holly Petraeus. ‘She knows what she wants. She’s obviously, according to people that know her well, not happy about this – very, very upset about this.
‘I do not know if she’s committed to working this out with Petraeus… But I do know that Dave Petraeus does not want to throw 37 years away and would really like to make this work and make things right with his family.’
Petraeus, 60, revealed very little about his ten-month affair with Broadwell, which ended in July, but said they had not spoken since Friday.
‘They have not talked since this story broke,’ Phillips said. ‘They talked a couple of times when he ended this relationship which was a couple [of] months ago. But they have not talked since the story broke.’
These previous conversations have been confirmed by sources who saw Petraeus and Broadwell chatting at an intelligence event in Washington on October 27, weeks after the start of the FBI probe.
In a further twist to the scandal on Wednesday, it emerged that Broadwell, a married mother of two, had admitted taking military documents from government buildings to her home.
The revelations, which caused FBI agents to swoop on her house in Charlotte, North Carolina on Monday night, added to fears that the affair could have allowed a national security breach.
But Phillips added: ‘He has insisted to me that he has never passed classified information to Paula Broadwell. As long as I have known him, he has never wavered on classified information, ever.’
Phillips added that Petraeus denied that the scandal was leaked in order to allow him to step down before testifying about the September 11 attack in Benghazi.
‘He has said this has nothing to do with Benghazi and he wants to testify,’ she said. ‘He will testify.
Kelley, who became friends with Petraeus and his wife through her work with the military, reported the emails to the FBI, who traced the emails back to Broadwell.
Some emails contained classified information about Petraeus’ whereabouts that was not publicly available, so the FBI, believing there had been a security breach, launched an in-depth investigation into the sender of the messages.
In the process of their investigation, they uncovered emails revealing Broadwell had conducted an affair with Petraeus and later, in October, interviewed both parties, who admitted to the affair.
On November 6 – Election Day – the FBI told Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about the probe during a phone call. He then spoke with Petraeus and advised him to resign.
Two days later, President Obama was told about the affair and Petraeus visited him at the White House to hand in his resignation.
Obama accepted Petraeus’ resignation and he stepped down as the head of the CIA on November 9.
The scandal also dragged in another general, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, as the FBI investigated Kelley’s emails from Broadwell.
During the probe, they reportedly uncovered 20,000 to 30,000 pages of email correspondence between Allen and Kelley, both of whom are married with children.
While they both deny any wrongdoing, officials have claimed some of the emails were ‘flirtatious’ and another likened the contents to ‘phone sex’.
Allen, who will be promoted to NATO supreme commander in Europe, remains in his position but the promotion is on hold while the investigation continues.
And in yet another odd twist, the FBI agent Kelley initially contacted about the threatening emails, Frederick W. Humphries II, was dismissed from the case after reportedly becoming ‘obsessed’ with it.
He even sent Kelley a topless photograph of himself, but Humphries now insists he was never assigned to the case and the picture was simply a ‘joke’.
As the scandal seemed to engulf an increasing number of people connected to the military, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said he is ‘unaware’ of any more names of those involved.
But in a memo, which does not explicitly name the scandal, he has asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review ethics training and to brainstorm on ways to steer officers away from trouble.
His press secretary, George Little, said the memo was the product of internal Pentagon discussions that began before Petraeus announced he was resigning due to his affair.