President Barack Obama on Wednesday pushed back against arguments he should have been told of the FBI's investigation into the relationships and communications among ex-CIA director David Petraeus, his biographer-turned-lover, and a Florida socialite, saying the White House had no role in criminal probes.
"One of the challenges here is we're not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations, and that's been our practice," Obama said in his first White House press conference since being reelected to a second term this month. "What I will say is, it's also possible if we were told [about it] you'd be here … asking why you got involved in a criminal investigation."
Obama also said that he has not seen any indication that any communications dealt with classified information.
Critics have said administration officials wanted to keep the investigation out of the public eye until after the Nov. 6 election.
The probe started with the FBI looking into threatening emails to Jill Kelley of Tampa, Fla., that turned out to be from Paula Broadwell, author of Petraeus' biography, "All In: The Education of David Petraeus." Kelley is well known in the Tampa area as a social liaison to MacDill Air Force Base, home of U.S. Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations
In the course the investigation agents uncovered evidence that Petraeus had carried on an affair with Broadwell and that his CIA emails may have been compromised.
The investigation has taken a few more strange twists since it became public last week.
The first investigating agent was taken off the case after he emailed a photo of himself shirtless to Kelley. Marine Gen. John Allen, head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan was also found to have exchanged thousands of emails with Kelley, including some that defense officials described as "flirtatious."
Both Petraeus and Allen wrote letters to a Washington DC judge on behalf of Kelley's twin sister, who was trying to amend a custody agreement to get more time with her son.
So far no charges have been filed in the case, though Petraeus resigned and Broadwell, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, could face administrative action.
Obama spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday said the president still "has faith" in Allen, while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cautioned reporters not to leap to conclusions about the Marine general.
"He certainly has my continued confidence to lead our forces and to continue the fight," said Panetta, who is currently in Australia.
Obama also came to the defense of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is among those being considered to succeed Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have indicated they would block her nomination. Graham said he does not trust Rice after she said on "Meet the Press" that the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was linked to an anti-Islam video and was not a pre-planned terrorist attack.
Obama said he has not decided who he would nominate for the top State post, but insisted he'd send Rice's name to the Senate if he decides she's the best person for the job.
"If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that conversation with them," Obama said. "But for them to go after [Rice] who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence which she received, to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous."