Mitch McConnell Working with the FBI in Response to Leaked Audio of Strategy Meeting

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 9 2013 11:57 AM

Mitch McConnell Working with the FBI in Response to Leaked Audio of Strategy Meeting

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks to the Senate chamber in March.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

David Corn snagged nearly 12 minutes of chatter from a meeting between Sen. Mitch McConnell and his campaign staffers. The single most shocking fact in here: Nobody curses. Who's met political strategists who don't curse? They instead play tapes of Ashley Judd (who hadn't ruled out a Senate bid yet) sounding like a dippy Hollywood star and singing the praises of Tennessee and San Francisco, which would be problematic for any Kentucky candidate. (Rand Paul even took flak because he went to Duke and was recorded saying that he rooted for their basketball team.)

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

This, attributed to an unnamed staffer, was the most loutish turn in the meeting:

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.

That sounds like spitballing to me. This isn't 1972, and a female actress-activist isn't Tom Eagleton. There are considerable risks involved with attacking someone for depression if she's 1) never concealed it and 2) gone on to be a productive member of society. Yes, starring in Bug fits that bill.

This wasn't half as explosive as the 47 percent tape, but the McConnell campaign's response has been volcanic. This is from McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton, who appears in the audio:

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.

Sen. 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 Sen. McConnell’s campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation.

Having vanquished Judd as a candidate, McConnell now wrestles with her ghost.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent talked to David Corn about the charges from Team McConnell.

I asked Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn, who wrote the story, for comment. He told me: “We reached out to McConnell’s Senate office and his campaign office, including Jesse Benton in particular yesterday, and didn’t hear back from them. Lawyers for Mother Jones vetted the story.”

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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