Despite his resignation on Friday citing an extramarital affair, former CIA Director David Petraeus should not back out of plans to testify on the recent attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a high-ranking House member said Friday.
Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King, who is also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration's handling of the September 11, 2012, attacks in Libya that killed four Americans including diplomat Chris Stevens.
In September, King, R-New York, called for the resignation of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, describing her characterization of the attack as misleading.
King said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that Petraeus is "an absolutely essential witness, maybe more than anybody else."
"David Petraeus testifying has nothing to do with whether or not he's still the CIA director, and I don't see how the CIA can say he's not going to testify," King said.
"I think his testimony is certainly valuable, it's certainly necessary," King continued. "He was at the center of this and he has answers that only he has."
If Petraeus does not testify as originally scheduled on Thursday, King said, "It should be very soon after that."
In October, King told CNN's Soledad O'Brien that the Obama administration, at least initially, did "not tell the truth to the American people" about the motivation for the attack and the state of security at the compound.
"I'm saying the administration has not told the truth and they have spread a false narrative," he said. "Now, are you talking about a criminal cover up? No. But I would say certainly they were concealing or holding back facts that would have undercut their position."
The agency's acting director, Michael Morell, will testify in Petraeus' place next week, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She did express confusion with the timing.
"What I don't understand is the immediate departure," Feinstein, R-California, told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. "That's the part I don't get."
Petraeus retired in 2011 as a four-star Army general after leading U.S. and international forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Barack Obama nominated him to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, where he became the fifth director in eight years. In a letter to CIA colleagues after Obama accepted his resignation, Petraeus said he exhibited "extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair."
Legislators on both sides of the aisle expressed surprise at Friday's announcement, and King offered praise of Petraeus' work.
"He's a man of extraordinary talent, extraordinary dedication, extraordinarily hardworking," King said. "When he would give his briefings, he would never turn to aides for any assistance, he was there. He knew it inside out. He was a 24/7 person with a really -- the old expression, think outside the box, that was David Petraeus.
"I'm sure there's always somebody who can take your place, but I don't see anybody on the horizon who would have the same level of intellect dedication, experience and contacts all over the world," he continued. "This is a real loss for the country, a real loss for the CIA."