US & Canada

What would David Petraeus bring as secretary?

Former CIA Director David Petraeus - shown walking through a building in New York Image copyright Spencer Platt
Image caption Former CIA Director David Petraeus spoke with the president-elect about the US

Former CIA Director David Petraeus is reportedly being considered for a cabinet position. Some are pleased with his potential comeback. Others are appalled.

Petraeus, a retired general and a former CIA director, got in trouble - famously - for revealing state secrets. In 2011 he handed over notebooks with highly classified information to his biographer-mistress, Paula Broadwell.

He also spoke on tape about giving her classified information - and made it clear he knew what he was doing. He resigned from the CIA when the scandal became public.

Officials readied a host of serious charges against Petraeus, but ultimately accepted a guilty plea to a lesser charge to avoid trial.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Paula Broadwell, the author of a Petraeus biography, was given classified information

Officials believed that his actions were worse than Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while Secretary of State. The FBI director declined to bring criminal charges against her.

During the campaign, Donald Trump said he'd have a special prosecutor "lock up" Clinton if he were elected.

Mr Trump softened his position after the election, however, and indicated that he was no longer interested in pursuing the case.

The president-elect seems interested in Petraeus, though, despite the "distraction", as one former defence official described Petraeus' conviction.

As the transition started, Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka called Petraeus, according to someone who knows the former general well, asking him to consider taking a position in the administration.

Petraeus is apparently now on a short list for secretary of state - along with Mitt Romney, a former presidential candidate himself, and Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City.

Jason Miller, Mr Trump's spokesman, said on Tuesday it's too early to say who'll become the nation's top diplomat - or if Petraeus is a top contender.

At this point, the question of who'll be nominated remains a mystery. As someone close to the transition team told me: "Only the Donald has the answer."

Petraeus' past makes him a less-than-ideal candidate.

"David's brilliant," a former CIA station chief told me. "But he made a mistake. What's going to be the response of rank and file if he's hired? That's my major concern."

Petraeus may not be wildly popular in the intelligence community.

But many Republicans believe that he deserves another chance.

Besides that, he's well-known in Washington and would have a good chance of being confirmed by the Senate.

Image copyright Drew Angerer
Image caption Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is being considered for a top job

"He's a home run," said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist.

On Monday Petraeus met with the president-elect in Trump Tower in New York.

Afterwards Petraeus told reporters Mr Trump "showed a great grasp of a variety of the challenges that are out there - and some of the opportunities as well".

Mr Trump also seemed enthusiastic, tweeting he was "very impressed!"

In certain ways, the job at the state department would suit Petraeus. He's familiar with a range of international issues and has diplomatic skills.

He can also be persuasive.

Years ago he convinced people in Washington of the merits of a military doctrine known as counterinsurgency.

He also worked with senior European officials and diplomats during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As CIA director, he wanted the US to take on a more aggressive role in Syria, despite the reservations of his boss, President Barack Obama.

Petraeus' appointment as secretary of state - if it were to happen - would send a message to the world, said Andrew Tabler, author of In the Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria.

"It would signal to the Iranians and the Russians that it's not going to be the cake walk that it was under Obama," said Tabler.

Petraeus is also not as ideologically rigid. He has served under both Democratic and Republican administrations and was hoping to work for Hillary Clinton if she were elected.

Now he seems eager to work for Mr Trump.

In this way he shows he understands the role of compromise in political life - and seems ready to roll with the punches.

Being flexible - and willing to work with either Democrats or Republicans - has a downside, however.

Image copyright Drew Angerer
Image caption Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani could face problems during confirmation hearings

He's not close to Trump or his top aides and doesn't seem to share their ideological world-view. They're focused on making America great again, as they put it, and seem less interested in expanding the role of the US on the global stage.

For these reasons, Petraeus wouldn't be part of their inner circle - not at first.

Yet as anyone who's met him socially knows, he has confidence, both in his own abilities and about his place in the world.

This makes it likely that he'd express his opinions loudly if he were working for the Trump administration.

It could also mean he'd resign from his position if he disagreed with the president's policies or discovered serving in the administration no longer advanced his own interests.

For the president-elect, the decision to hire someone like Petraeus, a secretary who seems willing to stand up to him, might show he's willing to build a cabinet with more diverse views, rather than all like-minded supporters.

The Republican strategist Mr Mackowiak, at least, hopes Petraeus will be appointed.

"It's almost hard to find a commander in the past 50 years who's as well-respected," He says. "He's credible, and he'd be a big name."

Follow @Tara_Mckelvey. on Twitter.

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