The FBI said Tuesday that it is investigating whether Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell's Louisville campaign office was bugged after aides were
caught on tape discussing possible political attacks on Ashley Judd.
The tape was posted by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine that created a stir last year when it published a secretly taped video of Mitt Romney.
"We can confirm that Sen. McConnell's office reported this matter to us, and we are looking into it," said Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman. "We are reviewing the tape to determine if any federal laws were violated."
On the recording, McConnell's aides discuss Judd and her struggles with depression and views on several topics, including religion. The actress-activist, who flirted with a Senate bid in Kentucky, said in late March that she would not run for the Democratic nomination in 2014 to take on McConnell.
McConnell, the top Senate Republican, alleged to reporters on Capitol Hill that liberals were behind the recording. "Last month, they were attacking my wife's ethnicity. And unbeknownst to me, they were bugging my headquarters in Nixonian fashion," he said. "That what the political left does these days."
McConnell is married to former Labor secretary Elaine Chao, a Taiwanese American.
Earlier in the day, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement, "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, "Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Sen. McConnell's office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation." Benton said McConnell's campaign contacted the U.S. attorney's office in Louisville at the FBI's request.
Mother Jones said it got the tape of a Feb. 2 meeting last week from a source who requested anonymity. David Corn, the story's author, said in a statement that the magazine was "not involved in the making of the tape" and rejected the characterization of "Watergate-style" tactics.
A McConnell aide is heard on the tape saying about Judd that "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 heard on the tape at the start of the meeting, in which a wide variety of opposition research on Judd is discussed. USA TODAY has not independently verified the tape. McConnell's aides talk about Judd's support for President Obama, her opposition to coal mining, support for a "cap and trade" energy policy and her views on abortion and religion. One McConnell aide says Judd is critical of "traditional Christianity," according to the tape and transcript posted by the magazine.
"This is yet another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell and are pervasive in Washington, D.C.," Judd's spokeswoman, Cara Tripicchio, said in a statement.
Contributing: Gregory Korte
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