MoJo’s secret recording of McConnell meeting called ‘Nixonian tactics’
By LOIS ROMANO and KEVIN ROBILLARD | 4/9/13 10:43 AM EDT Updated: 4/9/13 1:11 PM EDT
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
McConnell himself is heard speaking at the beginning of the meeting, which features aides presenting a whole range of opposition research they were considering using against a candidate Judd. At one point, a person describes “a wealth of material” to use potentially against Judd, prompting laughter from those present.
The veteran senator invokes an old arcade game to describe the campaign’s strategy for dealing with challengers.
“I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole?,” he said to laughter. “This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.”
Most of the discussion focuses on Judd’s liberal positions, including support for gay marriage and President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law. It’s unclear how long McConnell was present during the session.
Earlier that day, McConnell had a party to officially open the campaign offices. There were about 75 invitation-only guests at the event. The meeting occurred later in the day.
McConnell’s 2014 campaign is expected to be one of the nastiest, closest watched and most expensive races in the country. The senator’s approval ratings have been down, making him appear vulnerable. But the Democrats have yet to line up a strong candidate to challenge him.
Judd ultimately decided not to challenge McConnell.
“We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and his camp than to take a personal struggle such as depression, which many Americans cope with on a daily basis, and turn it into a laughing matter,” Judd spokeswoman Cara Tripicchio wrote in an e-mail to CBS News. “Every day it becomes clearer how much we need change in Washington from this kind of rhetoric and actions.”
The McConnell campaign also posted and then deleted a Tweet accusing “liberals” of “wiretap[ing]” his campaign office.
“First they attack our right to bear arms, then they wiretap,” the @TeamMitch account wrote, according to the Twitter archiving site Politwoops. “Stand up against the liberal left with Sen. McConnell.”
The message linked to a fundraising page declaring: “BREAKING: LIBERALS WIRE TAP MCCONNELL’S OFFICE. Stand with Senator McConnell against the liberal media’s illegal and underhanded tactics.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/mi...l#ixzz2PzKg1pHp