'Strong leads' in FBI probe of McConnell tape, campaign manager says

'Strong leads' in FBI probe of McConnell tape, campaign manager says

'Strong leads' in FBI probe of McConnell tape, campaign manager says

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on April 10, 2013 at 6:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 7 at 4:15 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- FBI agents spent about one hour inside Sen. Mitch McConnell's Louisville campaign headquarters Wednesday morning, investigating the audio recording of a private campaign staff meeting, McConnell's campaign manager told WHAS11 News.

"They checked out the office. They took a lot of pictures. They examined our personal devices.  And I believe swept the office," said Jesse Benton.  "A lot of this they needed to do outside of our eyes just their professional standards."

"They apparently feel like they have some strong leads and they're running them down," Benton said, adding that agents want to see security camera footage from the office building.  He expects the investigation to produce results "relatively soon."

After the audio recording was released on the Mother Jones website Tuesday morning, McConnell accused left wing political interests of a Watergate-like bugging of his campaign headquarters.

Neither McConnell or Benton have produced any evidence that the recording is linked to any particular organization or person. 

Benton backed off a suggestion by McConnell that Progress Kentucky, a liberal SuperPAC was behind the recording, yet said "they're definitely lumped in with the hyperaggressive left that will pull no punches."

Benton also expressed doubt that a tea party member was involved.

The strategy meeting was on February 2, about an hour and a half after a public opening of the campaign headquarters and about ten people were present, Benton said. 

"It was a small group of senior advisors and senior staff members that had been with McConnell for a long time and have his utmost trust," Benton said. 
"We do not have a mole.  This was an outside source illicitly taping us."

Benton said he is confident none of the staffers taped the meeting - even just to take notes. 

The recording reveals the extent of the McConnell campaign's opposition research against actress Ashley Judd.  National Democrats have blasted the U.S. Senate Republican Leader for the discussion of Judd being treated for depression and suicidal tendencies she wrote about in her book.
 
"She's clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it's been documented," a voice is heard on the recording posted on the Mother Jones website.

"These are things that she brought into the public record," Benton said, "and we were merely discussing that they existed and that they could be potentially a liability for her in a campaign."

"I'm sure they say a lot meaner things about (McConnell)," Benton added.

Benton also says the Mother Jones transcript of the meeting is wrong - the presenter does not say he thanks McConnell's Senate staff "three times" for their work on the campaign. Benton says the voice is saying the staffers spent their "free time" on the campaign, as allowed.

"We do have several legislative staff that do contribute their free time," Benton told WHAS11, "which is perfectly fine, perfectly legal and cleared ahead of time by the ethics committee."
 

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