The Cable

Levin: Number of e-mails between Kelley and Allen ‘astounding’

The sheer volume of e-mails between ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen and Jill Kelley, the woman who initiated the FBI investigation that ended the career of CIA Director David Petraeus, is "astounding," the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.

"The number of e-mails between the two is an astounding number of e-mails," Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) told some reporters in the basement of the Capitol building Tuesday. "But if you can get over that number, then the question is, hey let the IG [inspector general] do the appropriate investigation... I'm not going to jump to any conclusions."

Levin said he had a long phone call with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Monday evening, during which Panetta explained the circumstances regarding the administration's decision to place on hold Allen's nomination to become the next Supreme Allied Commander Europe and head of Europe Command. The Defense Department's Inspector General's office is reviewing the e-mails now.

Levin, along with several other senators, have canceled their meetings this week with Allen. The Cable spotted his presumptive successor, Gen. John Dunford, in the Capitol complex Tuesday. Dunford's confirmation hearing to be the next ISAF commander will go on as scheduled Nov. 15 and he is expected to be confirmed.

Levin and SASC ranking Republican John McCain (R-AZ) put out a statement Tuesday saying that the ISAF leadership transition is scheduled for February and the Europe leadership transition is scheduled for March. Until then, Allen should stay on in his post, Levin said.

"He ought to stay on unless there is some reason put forward that he has done something wrong, and then the military leaders should decide what the action should be. But until there's some acknowledged evidence he's done something wrong, there's no reason for him to leave," said Levin. "I don't know what happened there but the IG is going to find out."

Levin said he would wait to begin any congressional investigation into the matter until the IG investigation is completed.

Defense officials have said there were between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of e-mails between the two. A New York Post report said that Kelley's sister Natalie Kwaham had invoked Allen and Petraeus's names in her custody battle. She also invoked in legal papers the names of Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Spokesmen for Kerry and Whitehouse both said the senators had met Kwaham through Kwaham's boyfriend Gerald Harrington, a Democratic Party fundraiser.

Levin said he was "deeply saddened" by the news that Petraeus was resigning due to an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. He also said he agrees with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, who said today that eventually Petraeus should testify about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benhgazi.

"If he has some relevant information, sure, at some point [Petraeus should testify]," Levin said. ABC news revealed Tuesday that Petraeus traveled to Libya late last month to investigate the circumstances surrounding the attack.

Levin said Senate leadership has assured him the National Defense Authorization bill will be the Senate's first order of business after Thanksgiving. Levin said he believes the Senate will have only three legislative days to debate and pass the bill.

The Cable asked Levin if he believed Kerry would make a good defense secretary, an idea floated in the Washington Post Monday evening. "I think he would be terrific," Levin said.

The Cable

Corker: Rice's statements on Benghazi were ‘beyond belief'

The presumptive new GOP leader on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said today he was still upset that U.N. ambassador Susan Rice made statements attributing the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi to a spontaneous reaction to a video on Sept. 16, considering the "real-time" evidence that was available.

At 3:00 p.m. today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to kick off a week that will include several closed hearings on the Benghazi attack. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will follow suit Thursday morning and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold its own closed hearing with top administration officials Thursday afternoon. Corker, walking into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office this morning, said he was still concerned about Rice's comments and her defense of them afterward.

"How could we, knowing that our intelligence officials in Libya in real time while the event was taking place were letting our folks know back here that this was a terrorist attack -- it's beyond me that we would be out publicly talking about the event in that way," Corker said. "It's beyond belief."

Rice has explained that her comments were based on the intelligence community assessment at the time, but Corker said that is contradicted by the acknowledgment of senior officials that there was real-time reporting during the attack that clearly identified it as a terrorist attack, with no protest beforehand.

Corker declined to say whether or not Rice would have a hard time making it through the Senate confirmation process if she is nominated to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rice's potential nomination could be the first major issue Corker tackles as SFRC ranking Republican next year, and he would have to decide whether to mount a challenge to Obama's pick.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has repeatedly tied Rice's Sept. 16 comments to her confirmation prospects.

"Susan Rice would have an incredibly difficult time getting through the Senate. I would not vote for her unless there's a tremendous opening up of information explaining herself in a way she has not yet done," Graham said Nov. 11.

SFRC Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) will be chairing today's closed hearing on the Benghazi incident and is also said to be in consideration for secretary of state, or as the Washington Post reported Monday, for secretary of defense. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman of the subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian affairs, told The Cable today he doesn't expect the hearing to answer all of the outstanding questions about the Benghazi attack.

"I want to find out the basics on how this happened and what we can do to prevent it from happening in the future," Casey said.