General David Petraeus shakes hands with author Paula Broadwell in this 2011 handout photo. (Handout/Reuters)

Federal prosecutors have recommended that David H. Petraeus face charges for providing classified documents to his biographer, raising the prospect of criminal proceedings against the retired four-star general and former CIA director.

The recommendation follows a federal probe into how the biographer, Paula Broadwell, apparently obtained classified records several years ago while working on a book about Petraeus. Broadwell was also his mistress, and the documents were discovered by investigators during the scandal that forced Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director in 2012.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. must decide whether to pursue charges against Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment, as did Robert B. Barnett, a lawyer for Petraeus.

Both Petraeus and Broadwell have denied in the past that he provided her with classified information. Investigators have previously focused on whether his staff gave her sensitive documents at his instruction.

The U.S. federal prosecutors have recommended bringing charges against former CIA chief David Petraeus, raising the prospect of criminal proceedings against him. (Reuters)

The prosecutors’ recommendation was first reported Friday evening on the Web site of the New York Times, which said Petraeus has rejected the possibility of a plea deal.

The FBI has been pushing to resolve several high-profile counterespionage investigations that have lingered for months and in some cases years. In addition to the case involving Petraeus and Broadwell, the bureau wants the Justice Department to decide whether to pursue charges against veteran State Department diplomat Robin Raphel and retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, who until 2011 was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cartwright was the target of a Justice Department investigation into the leak of information about the Stuxnet cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear program. The details of Raphel’s case remain murky, but officials have said classified information was found at her home.

FBI agents believe they have strong cases against all four of them, said another U.S. official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Each of the cases is considered sensitive given the involvement of high-ranking officials in the U.S. government.

The Justice Department has also faced political pressure to resolve the Petraeus matter. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), now the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Holder last month expressing concern the case has continued to linger.

“At this critical moment in our nation’s security, Congress and the American people cannot afford to have this voice silenced or curtailed by the shadow of a long-running, unresolved investigation marked by leaks from anonymous sources,” said McCain, adding that he wasn’t seeking action “on behalf of any particular interest — and don’t presume to judge the outcome of any investigation.”

Federal investigators first searched Broadwell’s home in Charlotte in November 2012 and seized dozens of boxes of records as well as computer equipment. Aides to Petraeus have said they were often tasked to provide military records or other documents to Broadwell for her work on her book about him. That book, “All In,” was published in January 2012.

Any classified information investigators discovered could expose both her and Petraeus to charges. It is a crime to remove classified information from secure, government locations as well as to provide that information to others not authorized to receive it.

Petraeus now spends his time teaching and giving speeches; he also serves as chairman of the KKR Global Institute, a part of the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

The 2012 investigation into Petraeus was triggered when Broadwell allegedly sent threatening e-mails to another woman who was a friend of Petraeus, Jill Kelley of Tampa. Kelley alerted an FBI agent she knew to seek protection and to help track down whoever had sent the e-mails.

The FBI traced the messages to Broadwell, a married Army reservist, and in the course of its investigation, uncovered explicit e-mails between Broadwell and Petraeus.

Investigators said they were at first concerned about the possibility that Petraeus, then the director of the CIA, had had his e-mail hacked. Further investigation led to the discovery of the affair with Broadwell.

Petraeus had become CIA director a short time earlier, in September 2011. His resignation cut short his time at the agency and also seemed to scuttle long-rumored presidential aspirations.

Julie Tate contributed to this report.