Mitch McConnell seeks FBI investigation
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign asked the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office on Tuesday to investigate how Mother Jones magazine obtained a recording of a February strategy session.
“Senator McConnell’s campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. Attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings,” McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement. “Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell’s campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation.”
Judd not running: Pundits react
Crossroads ad mocks Judd
Latest on POLITICO
Law forces W.H.’s hand on cuts
DOJ, IRS quiet on campaign finance
Sandy Hook parents to Hill
McCain: Immigration deal this week
Power family list skips the Clintons
Sci-fi film shows ‘Occupy’ of future
Added a source close to the campaign: “We’re going on the assumption that a crime has been committed. No one at the meeting leaked this.”
(PHOTOS: Ashley Judd through the years)
The McConnell campaign has not offered any direct evidence the recording was the result of an illegal bug.
The FBI office in Louisville, Ky. confirmed McConnell’s office had contacted them and that the bureau was looking into the matter.
On Tuesday morning, Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, published an audio recording of McConnell staffers discussing opposition research they could use against actress Ashley Judd, who was considering running against veteran senator in the 2014 Senate race. Judd announced last week that she would not make the race.
The magazine reported that in the Feb. 2 recording, McConnell and his aides were heard considering attacking Judd for “past struggles with depression and for her religious views.”
(Also on POLITICO: Pundits react: Ashley Judd won’t run)
Someone on the tape is heard saying:
“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it’s been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.”
McConnell is not disputing the authenticity of the tape. Yesterday, his campaign offices were swept by a private security detail, which did not find a bug. Still, given that the meeting was attending by only a handful of longtime McConnell insiders, team McConnell is convinced it was not an internal leak. In an earlier statement, the McConnell campaign accused “the Left” of using “Nixonian tactics” and bugging the campaign’s headquarters.
David Corn, the Mother Jones reporter who broke the story, stood by his reporting and noted that he repeatedly reached out to the McConnell camp before publication.
(PHOTOS: Mitch McConnell’s career)
“Our lawyers vetted the story,” he told POLITICO. “The story itself says we were provided the tape by a source who wishes to remain anonymous. You know this job. I really can’t say much beyond that.”
In a later statement, the magazine said they weren’t involved in the tape’s production.
“We are still waiting for Sen. Mitch McConnell to comment on the substance of the story,” the statement read. “Before posting this article, we contacted his Senate office and his campaign office—in particular, his campaign manager, Jesse Benton—and no one responded. As the story makes clear, we were recently provided the tape by a source who wished to remain anonymous. We were not involved in the making of the tape, but we published a story on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness. It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation. We cannot comment beyond that.”