Petraeus on His Mishandling of Classified Information: 'I Made a Serious Mistake'

The former general is under consideration for secretary of state.

ByABC News
December 4, 2016, 12:59 PM

— -- David Petraeus, a former general and CIA director, responded to reported concerns of some Republican senators about his possible nomination for secretary of state by acknowledging he "made a serious mistake" in mishandling classified information while he ran the nation's chief spy agency.

"What I would say to them is what I've acknowledged for a number of years, that five years ago I made a serious mistake. I acknowledged it. I apologized for it. I paid a very heavy price for it, and I've learned from it," Petraeus said in an exclusive interview on ABC's "This Week."

Petraeus pleaded guilty in 2015 to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information. The charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material was in part linked to documents the former CIA director allegedly provided to his mistress Paula Broadwell.

The retired general's mishandling of classified material is back in the spotlight given that he is one of the people whom President-elect Trump is considering for secretary of state.

Trump promised on the campaign trail to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified material while she was secretary of state. He has, however, recently backed away from that promise, telling The New York Times he won't recommend a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton because she has already "suffered greatly."

Petraeus said that he hopes that if he is nominated to lead the state department, the Senate, which must confirm Cabinet appointments, would judge him on his whole career.

"They'll have to factor that in, and also obviously 38 and a half years of otherwise fairly, in some cases, unique service to our country in uniform and at the CIA," he said.

If nominated for secretary of state by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, Petraeus would be responsible for carrying out Trump's foreign policy priorities, which could include some of his signature campaign promises, such as getting Mexico to pay for a wall on the southern border of the United States.

Asked how he would convince Mexico to pay for a border wall, Petraeus said, "I'm not sure what the scheme would be there for that. Again, the issue with Mexico would be to determine together how we could improve the status of the security, while certainly not impeding the flow of commerce back and forth that is so very important to both of our countries."

Petraeus met with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Monday and told Stephanopoulos he found Trump to be "quite pragmatic."

"In our conversation, what I enjoyed most, frankly, was the discussion of issues or, say, campaign rhetoric, if you will, and then placing that in a strategic context," he said.

The former CIA director under President Obama was also asked if Trump inquired as to whether Petraeus voted for him for president.

"I don't vote," Petraeus said. "So that's an easy answer."

"I also did not support him, nor did I oppose him, nor did I support or oppose any other candidate," Petraeus said. "I've truly tried to be apolitical."