President Obama said today that he's seen no evidence to suggest that classified information was compromised because of the scandal that led to former CIA Director David Petraeus' resignation last week.
"I have no evidence at this point from what I've seen that classified information was disclosed in any way that would've had a negative impact on our national security," Mr. Obama said in his first White House news conference since winning re-election.
Petraeus abruptly resigned on Friday after admitting to an extramarital affair. Mr. Obama said that Petraeus did not meet his own standards to serve as CIA director because of his improper relationship with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
"It's on that basis that he tendered his resignation, and it's on that basis that I accepted" his resignation, Mr. Obama said.
Members of Congress have questioned why the White House only learned of the FBI investigation into Petraeus after the Nov. 6 presidential election. Mr. Obama declined to criticize the FBI's handling of the matter, citing its protocols for criminal investigations.
"I am withholding judgment with respect to how the entire process surrounding Gen. Petraeus came up. We don't have all the information yet," the president said. "But I want to say I have a lot of confidence generally in the FBI, and they've got a difficult job."
Mr. Obama stressed his respect for Petraeus, saying,"From my perspective, at least, he has provided this country with an extraordinary service. We are safer because of the work David Petraeus has done."
He noted that investigation began as a criminal investigation and "one of the challenges here is we're not supposed to meddle, and that's been our practice... That's traditionally how we do things in part because people are innocent until proven guilty and we don't' want to prejudge."
Mr. Obama also stressed his respect for Petraeus, saying,"From my perspective, at least, he has provided this country with an extraordinary service. We are safer because of the work David Petraeus has done."
Today's news conference is Mr. Obama's 20th White House news conference in which he took questions from the press, according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller. His last news conference was on March 6.
In addition to addressing the Petraeus scandal, Mr. Obama used the opportunity broach a far more expected crisis -- the looming "fiscal cliff." He stressed that unless Congress acts to avert the "fiscal cliff" all Americans could see their taxes could go up and the economy could fall back into a recession.
"Our economy can't afford that right now," Mr. Obama said. "Certainly no middle class family can afford that right now."
The so-called "fiscal cliff" refers to a series of tax increases and spending cuts slated to go into effect on Janary 1. It includes the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and the expiration of the payroll tax holiday that Mr. Obama instituted. Around $1.2 trillion in cuts to both defense and non-defense programs are also set to kick in on January 1 unless Congress and the White House can find a way to offset them.
The president is holding a series of meetings on the issue this week to tackle the fiscal cliff. On Friday he meets with congressional leaders while this afternoon he meets with corporate executives. Yesterday, he met with progressive activists and labor union leaders.
Mr. Obama's commitment to raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans puts the president at odds with congressional Republicans who are open to increasing tax revenues but do not want to raise rates.
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