WASHINGTON: Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley not only had close ties to the military community with unusual access to top generals, they even visited the White House on separate and apparently unrelated occasions before a sex scandal brought down former CIA Director David Petraeus.
Neither woman met with President Barack Obama during their visits, a White House official said.
Petraeus resigned as CIA director last week after acknowledging an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. In briefings Friday with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the retired four-star general was apologetic and regretful and insisted that his resignation was related only to his personal behavior.
Jill Kelley, the Tampa, Florida, socialite who initiated the investigation that revealed the affair, and her twin sister had two "courtesy" meals at the White House mess as guests of a midlevel White House aide in September and October, the White House official said. Kelley and her family also received a White House tour on the weekend before the Nov. 6 election.
Broadwell, who was writing a book about Petraeus and eventually became his paramour, attended meetings in June 2009 and June 2011 on Afghanistan-Pakistan policy in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is located in the White House complex, the official said.
The White House visits by Broadwell and Kelley illustrate the wide-ranging access both women enjoyed because of their ties with Petraeus, Gen. John Allen and others in the close-knit military community. The White House official discussed their visits on condition of anonymity because the visitors logs being cited have yet to be made public.
The FBI began an investigation after Kelley turned over anonymous emails that had been sent to her and Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Kelley was a friend of both Petraeus and Allen and had become a social liaison between the Tampa civilian community and the military at MacDill Air Force Base.
One anonymous email traced to Broadwell warned Allen to stay away from Kelley. FBI agents ultimately found emails between Petraeus and Broadwell that led them to believe the two were having an affair.
Largely out of public view in the week since his resignation, Petraeus was whisked into private meetings with lawmakers Friday amid the sort of clandestine atmosphere that befits a spy. A network of underground hallways was used to smuggle the retired general into a secure room beneath the Capitol to escape a clamorous crowd of photographers and television cameras. Police closed down entire corridors in the Capitol.
Members of Congress said the arrangements were designed to spare Petraeus embarrassment. Before the scandal, he famously cultivated personal relationships with journalists and walked through the front door of the Capitol and greeted reporters when visiting Congress.
After more than four hours, Petraeus left the Capitol much the way he entered and was seen departing in a two-vehicle motorcade. About 20 minutes later, The Associated Press photographed Petreaus entering his home - one of the only public images of him since he resigned.
In separate briefings with members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, Petraeus discussed the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead. He did not discuss his adultery with Broadwell, except to say that he regretted his behavior and that his departure was unrelated to the deadly violence in Libya.
"He was very clear his resignation was tied solely to his personal behavior," said Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "He was apologetic and regretful but still Gen. Petraeus."
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate committee, apologized to reporters and photographers for the stringent security.
"I know that's rankling you," Feinstein said. "We didn't want to make it any more difficult for him. And you know, you people aren't always the easiest. So the blame is on us. Any waiting that you did, I apologize, but, you know, there's a lot of suffering going on."
Feinstein said no senators asked Petraeus about the affair.