WASHINGTON — Jill Kelley, the Tampa, Fla. socialite embroiled in the scandal surrounding former CIA director and retired Army general David H. Petraeus's abrupt resignation last week, visited the White House with her twin sister three times this fall, a White House official confirmed Friday.
Kelley, 37, and her sister, Natalie Khawam, lunched at the White House mess, or cafeteria, twice with a mid-level staffer in the Obama administration whom Kelley had met socially in Tampa. One lunch occurred in late September and the other in late October. In addition, Kelley, her husband, their three children, her sister and her sister's child took a tour of the White House on Nov. 4.
All three visits were arranged by the staffer as a courtesy and at the request of Kelley, said the White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The staffer did not offer a private tour but simply arranged for Kelley and her relatives to take a tour of the White House that is regularly available to members of the public.
The official said the staffer met Kelley during a visit to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, headquarters of the U.S. Central Command. It was during Petraeus's command there that he met Kelley, a prominent Tampa socialite known for throwing lavish parties and for befriending top military leaders at Central Command.
Kelley flaunted her access to these military VIPs but also developed what family members called genuine friendships with some. Her close connections to Petraeus and Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, have brought them all under intense scrutiny in an unfolding scandal.
Federal investigators have said that Kelley's complaint about harassing emails — which were eventually traced to Petraeus's biographer, Paula Broadwell — triggered the FBI's discovery of the general's extramarital affair with Broadwell and his eventual resignation from his post as head of the CIA. According to a senior defense official, Kelley also exchanged hundreds of emails with Allen, who has been ensnared in the case amid questions about whether he had "inappropriate communications" with her.
The White House official declined to identify the staffer who lunched with Kelley, but said the employee is not a senior member of the administration. That characterization stands in contrast to Kelley's own boasts. In emails with the mayor of Tampa reported in The Huffington Post, Kelley crowed about visiting the White House days before the scandal broke. "I was at the WH with my friends in the Administration this weekend - the stress was surreal!" she wrote, according to The Huffington Post. "But glad POTUS has been reelected!"
The official said anyone with dining privileges at the White House mess can bring a guest. The official also said that Kelley and her family went through the same security screening that all members of the public must go through to take the White House tour.
The White House official also volunteered that Broadwell herself attended two meetings in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, within the White House complex. One meeting was in June 2009 with a staff member handling Afghanistan and Pakistan policy. The other meeting, in June 2011, was a briefing on Afghanistan-Pakistan policy for a group of approximately 20 attendees.
The latter meeting took place a few hours before President Obama gave a prime-time speech to the nation on his plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.