McConnell Campaign Seeks FBI Probe of Secret Tape

Senator Mitch McConnell wishes to know how "Mother Jones" obtained an audio recording of a private meeting where aides ripped potential opponent Ashley Judd

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T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the press after the weekly Senate Republicans policy luncheon on March 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign has asked the FBI to investigate how a liberal magazine obtained an audio recording of a private strategy meeting in which aides discussed how to defeat Ashley Judd if the actress ran against McConnell next year.

The tape, released Tuesday on the website of Mother Jones magazine, captures McConnell and a cadre of aides discussing the possibility of attacking Judd for her mental health, her views on religion and gender issues, and a range of policy positions. According to Mother Jones, the recording is of a Feb. 2 meeting at the Louisville headquarters of McConnell’s re-election campaign. At the time, Judd, a Democrat, was mulling a challenge to the Republican Senate leader, who faces re-election in 2014. She has since decided not to run.

Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, told TIME the meeting consisted of “a very small group of senior strategists,” and dismissed the possibility that someone in the room could have leaked the recording.

(MORE: Ashley Judd Targeted in Withering New Ad)

“We’ve always said the left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters are above and beyond,” Benton said in a statement. “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. 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.”

The recording captures a presentation at which aides review opposition research of Judd’s personal history and policy positions. McConnell’s voice is heard on the tape, describing the process as the “Whac-A-Mole period” of the campaign. “When anybody sticks their head up, do them out,” he seems to say.

Mining a potential opponent’s past statements for damaging nuggets is standard procedure for any campaign, though the secret recording lays bare how brutal the process can be. The tape captures McConnell aides noting Judd’s hospitalization for mental-health reasons and playing a clip in which the actress describes feeling unsettled by airport stimuli after returning from a trip abroad. “She’s clearly — this sounds extreme — but she is emotionally unbalanced,” a McConnell aide says on the tape. “She’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.”

(MORE: The Gentlemen From Kentucky: Inside the Partnership of Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell)

On the recording, McConnell aides describe Judd as a carpetbagger with homes in Tennessee, San Francisco and Scotland, and argue that her positions on issues ranging from coal to gay marriage are out of step with voters in the conservative Bluegrass State. They attack her for being “anti” the “traditional American family,” as well as for her pro-choice stance and her views on motherhood and gender. “She described having children as selfish, and she thinks it’s unconscionable to breed,” says a McConnell adviser, who goes on to add that Judd is “critical … of traditional Christianity. She sort of views it as sort of a vestige of patriarchy.”

Asked by reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday whether Judd’s mental-health struggles should be out of bounds, McConnell twice ducked the question, noting that a liberal group in his state had targeted the ethnicity of his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan. He suggested the same group, a little-known Democratic super PAC called Progress Kentucky, was behind the taping. “Last month my wife’s ethnicity was attacked by a left-wing group in Kentucky,” McConnell said. “Now they also apparently bugged my headquarters.” McConnell called the tactic “Nixonian,” but did not address the question of Judd’s mental health.

This is not the first time that Mother Jones, which says the tape was provided by a source who requested anonymity, has obtained an incendiary record of a secret meeting. Last fall, reporter David Corn, author of the publication’s story about the McConnell meeting, posted a surreptitiously taped video of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney blasting the “47%” of Americans dependent on the government during a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser at a Boca Raton estate. The tape, leaked by a catering-company employee who was working at the event, was a decisive factor in Romney’s November loss to Barack Obama.

Updated, 3:10 p.m.

28 comments
RonaldPeacock
RonaldPeacock

Wonder what will happen when they find that he did his own taping for a little sympathy and some free press? This is the same guy that had to filibuster his own bill. Tell you something????

mythoughtonly
mythoughtonly

Could it be that Mother Earth has help from the White House when it proves convenient for the Democrats?

thinkthenvote
thinkthenvote

Really, McConnell shouldn't the FBI be looking into more important things - one of your "friends" betrayed you so you think because you are a politician you can "use" law enforcement on a whim.  You created the politics of hate - as is evident in your attack on a non-candidate, now you must live with your own legacy as the veil is lifted on your desperation to hang onto your role as CCO - Chief Congressional Obstructionist.  Trying to spin this one isn't working.

bill1
bill1

His calling for an investigation is just trying to divert attention from the fact that he's a real sleazebag.

Sparrow55
Sparrow55

It sounds to me like one or more of McConnell's "friends" are actually working for somebody who wants to run against him in the primary. 

ilikechips
ilikechips

Disgusting liberal hypocrits here, nothing new. If this had been James o Keefe planting a recording device in Dingy Harry's office everyone would be calling for an investigation and the liberal lame stream media would not play what's on the tapes. But no, We have all the networks playing the tapes. What a shock. Nobody believes the liberal media anymore. Love the media blackout of the abortion Dr. on trial for murdering babies who were born.

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

Any actual evidence the room was bugged, or just making random accusations?


PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

Hey, Turtle McSnertle, how about addressing the content of the tape instead of trying to distract everyone by running around squealing and waving your arms and pretending you're a victim?

ParthaNeogy
ParthaNeogy

**The tape, leaked by a catering company employee who was working at the event, was a decisive factor in Romney’s November loss to Barack Obama.**

A decisive factor?  Is it now conventional wisdom that Romney would have won but for the surfacing of the 47% tape? 


gysgt213
gysgt213

Did McConnell Use Senate Employees for Oppo Research on Ashley Judd?


A secret recording of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and aides discussing in February how they might attack actor/activist Ashley Judd, then a potential 2014 challenger to McConnell, attracted widespread attention after Mother Jones published it Tuesday morning. Much of the news coverage focused on the McConnell team's comments about Judd's religious views and her mental-health history. But the tape might raise ethics questions for McConnell and his staff.

Senate ethics rules prohibit Senate employees from participating in political activities while on government time. But the tape indicates that several of McConnell's legislative aides, whose salaries are paid by the taxpayer, were involved with producing the oppo research on Judd that was discussed at the February 2 meeting.


http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/04/mcconnell-use-senate-employees-research-political-attacks-ashley-judd

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

I wonder if all republicans share his hatred of people who suffer from mental illness and believe the best way to deal with them is through mockery and insult?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Quick, let's change the subject from the content of the tape!

"Senate ethics rules prohibit Senate employees from participating in political activities while on government time. But the tape indicates that several of McConnell's legislative aides, whose salaries are paid by the taxpayer, were involved with producing the oppo research on Judd that was discussed at the February 2 meeting."

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/04/mcconnell-use-senate-employees-research-political-attacks-ashley-judd

gysgt213
gysgt213

Chuck Todd just said on MSNBC that he asked McConnell's campaign about this specific incident and the campaign admitted they have zero evidence that the room was bugged.  Not only that, they hired a private security firm that swept the room and no bug was found.

kathy
kathy

Considering there were 75 of his "supporters" in the same office - by invitation, presumably - earlier in the day, you kinda have to wonder if one of them planted a recording device, retrieved later.  

And since David Corn says it's his understanding this isn't a Watergate bugging type of incident, what else does it leave, but that McConnell's own side did the dirty work.  Did they ignore a worker coming in to empty the trash, as invisible as the bartender at Romney's event?


kathy
kathy

My favorite bit of the tape is when - exulting that Ahley Judd is "anti-traditional Christianity" - they listen to her quoting St. Francis of Assisi and have absolutely no idea that's what she's doing.  I wonder if McConnell would like to place this bit for the new pope?

Judd - ...I enjoy native faith practices, and have a very nature-based God concept. I'd like to think I'm like St. Francis in that way. Brother Donkey, Sister Bird. [Laughter.]

Presenter: Brother Donkey, Sister Bird! [Laughter.]

Male voice: The people at Southeast Christian [Church] would take to the streets with pitchforks. [Laughter.]

Presenter: Brother…That's my favorite line so far. Absolute favorite one so far. [Laughter.]

"


kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

"McConnell called the tactic “Nixonian,” "

..without a hint of irony or self-reflection...

Pollopa
Pollopa

If only there was video.  It be great to see if they were all standing around stirring a black kettle passing an eye around as each spoke of the things they could do to get Ashley.

grape_crush
grape_crush

Mitch McConnell is a nasty piece of work who is planning to run a smear campaign against an opponent? I'm shocked, just shocked at this revelation. Who knew McConnell was such a POS?

And that's why I don't think "the Left" had much to do with this, other than to post the recording. Saying so sure sounds good to GOPer primary voters, though.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

An attendee probably posted it on Facebook.


MrObvious
MrObvious

Don't apologize for being a bunch of unwashed DBs, demand that whomever let us know be silenced. Heaven forbid voters finds out just what kind of bunch of tools these guys are.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

This audio recording already uncovered one shocking revelation; Mitch McConnell actually visits his office from time to time, presumably to do "work".  Who knew - the guy's actually a Senator?

MrObvious
MrObvious

@ilikechips 

Hey bud - someone in the room did it. There was no bug found or device. You're barking up the wrong tree. Not unusual tho.

notsacredh
notsacredh

He also started drooling when the lunch bell rang. Pavlovian.

gysgt213
gysgt213

@Ivy_B Didn't the CIA bug a courtroom at Gitmo unknown to the judge, prosecutors and defense?