OTR Interviews

Former Attorney General Gonzales: Petraeus affair could have been viewed as possible national security threat, Holder should have told Obama

Since attorney general knew about sex scandal investigation months ago, was he required to immediately tell Pres. Obama and White House?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 13, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Attorney General Eric Holder knew this past summer that then-CIA director David Petraeus was part of an FBI investigation. Did he tell his boss, President Obama? And did the president do nothing? And if the attorney general didn't tell President Obama, why not? Is it time for Attorney General Eric Holder to be summoned to testify?

Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: How do we begin to determine whether or not the attorney general of the United States should have told the president that there was a federal investigation going on of the CIA director, assuming that he did not?

GONZALES: Well, Greta, I really can't speak to what goes on within this administration. I can tell you this. If Bob Mueller, who is the FBI director when I was the attorney general, had come to me and advised me that the CIA director was suspected of having an affair, I would have notified the President of United States. I would have done so because an affair by the CIA director reflects extremely poor judgment. And I believe that the president would have wanted to know, was entitled to know that kind of information.

In addition to that, at the time that, apparently, General Holder was aware of this, the investigation as to whether or not there was a security breach, I believe, had not been completed. As a result, I think it would have been important for the president and for the administration to take appropriate steps to ensure that there would not be any damage done to national security.

And so appropriate -- you take appropriate steps to respond to a national security threat. And in my judgment, this at that time would have been viewed as a possible national security threat.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any obligation, by rules or good judgment or whatever, to notify Congress?

GONZALES: I think the situation with Congress is a little bit different. Again, if you're are talking about sharing of information between the president and the CIA director, there's a back and forth. When you're talking about communication with Congress, generally, it's the director of the CIA providing information to the Congress. And so there's less possibility of damage to national security in that kind of scenario.

But clearly, I certainly understand the interest in Congress in an ongoing federal investigation of the CIA director. This is a pretty big deal. It's a very important deal. And I certainly understand Congress's desire to understand what happened. Clearly, they want to know why they weren't informed. And that'll be a decision -- that'll -- that information, of course, is all going to be disclosed as these facts come out.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it -- you know, the -- underlying all this is the fact that four Americans were murdered in Benghazi. And I'll tell you that if there were four people murdered in the District of Columbia, it'd be on the front page of the newspaper every day until they picked somebody up and people would be pretty upset about it.

This -- you know, it's sort of this whole thing has now been overshadowed by this -- this -- this affair. But I'm curious, is -- is the -- is the affair separate, is it, quote, just sex, or is it intimately involved with the investigation of Benghazi and a question of national security and a question that really should be, you know, investigated on Capitol Hill to the extent that it might have had any impact on any judgments?

GONZALES: I think that remains to be seen. And that's certainly a legitimate question. And I think that's the reason why Congress needs to do an investigation here to see whether or not there was any kind of connection.

And your previous guests have all been right on. I mean, the real issue here, of course, is the failures at Benghazi and the fact that four Americans were killed. Whether or not this affair by General Petraeus has anything to do with that, whether or not there was an effect on any kind of decisions made by the director, that all remains to be seen. I think there's a lot more information here that we just are not aware of yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: Should General Petraeus, attorney general of the United States, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- should they all be asked to testify, and of course, if not asked, should they all be -- you know, should they all receive subpoenas to testify? Are they important to this investigation about Benghazi?

GONZALES: I think that they -- I think that are important. I'm not so sure about the importance of General Holder, based upon the information that I know today. But certainly, the CIA director, the secretary of state -- I think -- I think their testimony would be very, very important to any kind of investigation. And if, in fact, they're not willing to testify voluntarily, obviously, I think, clearly, Congress has the authority to subpoena their testimony.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I don't like is in this city is that there is a lot of -- the use of -- classifying things so they don't get out in the public domain. I've always (INAUDIBLE) American people almost have sort of no control over this. A lot of things I always think are overclassified. Do you agree with me or not?

GONZALES: I think that there is a lot of information that gets classified that probably should not be classified. That's certainly understandable when you're in a time of war or serious danger. For example, immediately after 9/11.

But I think there's no question about it, that if you look back at information that is declassified that was classified 25 years ago, you look at the information, you think there's no reason in the world why this information should have been classified.

But it's so easy for government officials to err on the side of safety and classify information, and oftentimes -- and there are many instances when information should be made available to the public so that they understand and they know what their government is doing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Judge Gonzales, thank you, and I Have sort of a sense of time's up on this investigation. A lot of stuff is probably going to be hidden behind classification. I hope not. Time's up. We need the facts. Four Americans were killed. Thank you, Judge.

GONZALES: Thank you.