McConnell manager says FBI has 'promising leads' on recording; Answers questions on discussion of Judd's mental health

04/10/2013 07:22 PM

The FBI will have more details soon on the investigation into how a strategy meeting of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell campaign staff was secretly taped, according to McConnell’s campaign manager.

Three main theories have emerged about how that audio recording was made:

1. That the office was bugged. But McConnell Campaign Manager Jesse Benton said Tuesday in a statement to the press that the staff had not found a bug in the office.

2. That someone in the room recorded the meeting and released it. Benton told Pure Politics on Wednesday he was confident that didn’t happen because the only people in that room were fewer than a dozen senior aides and consultants.

3. Or that someone entered the office suite and recorded the session from behind the closed door to the meeting room.

In an interview with Pure Politics’ Ryan Alessi on Wednesday, Benton said he met with FBI agents, who told him they have some leads.

“For the first time I am saying publicly on your show that I was actually just a couple minutes late to this taping because the FBI was at our office for about an hour this morning,” Benton said (at :10 in the interview). “There’s an ongoing criminal investigation, they tell me they have some promising leads. I wish I could elaborate more but I have to refrain.”

The Feb. 2 strategy session following the opening of the campaign headquarters focused on potential material to use against prospective candidates, such as Ashley Judd — who ultimately decided not to run — and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

While many of the potential issues of what was talked about in the meeting already have been discussed in the media, a one-minute discussion of Judd’s publicly acknowledged struggle with mental health issues.

Benton says that came up because the group was discussing things Judd had written and spoken about openly. And Benton believes that discussion was not out of bounds.

“If you read the transcript and look at the tone…yeah, I believe it was respectful and it was completely in bounds. Every campaign would discuss the public writings of anybody that was considering running against them,” Benton said (at 2:50).

While he is unsure whether they would have used the information or how, Benton says the discussion of the issue is germane because of the circumstances of the office.

“I would think that if we are going to consider electing somebody to represent the Commonwealth of Kentucky in Washington and sit there in the pressure cooker situations and deal with issues on the international stage and national stage, the most pressing issues of the day North Korea saber rattling with nuclear weapons, I believe someone’s mental stability may very well be an issue” (at 5:15).

Jacqueline Pitts

Jacqueline Pitts joined the cn|2 political team in June 2012. A graduate of WKU, Jacqueline grew up in Nashville, TN and is looking forward to having a front row seat to Kentucky politics. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqueline_cn2. She can be reached at 502-792-1114 or


  • susan wrote on April 11, 2013 09:25 AM :

    Mr. Benton: Explain the laughter then.

  • Cat Balz wrote on April 11, 2013 11:26 AM :

    I’m definitely with Ashley on the pink fuzzy socks thing. I always make my dad change if he’s wearing his pink fuzzy socks with sandals before I take him to Krogers.

  • susan wrote on April 11, 2013 12:16 PM :

    You said it Cat Balz; it’s a joke, right? We laugh at that which is funny, don’t we?

  • Cat Balz wrote on April 11, 2013 02:12 PM :

    There’s nothing funny about my dad wearing pink fuzzy socks, Susan. Maybe if it was some other 80 year old, 6 foot 3, 230 pound man with Marine Corps tats on both forearms wearing pink fuzzy socks with sandals I’d laugh. And you have no idea how many white loads of laundry he has ruined because of those G-D pink fuzzy socks! I’m 100 per cent in sympathy with Ashley about pink fuzzy socks, and I don’t even have to return home from some foreign trip to be sent over the edge about f*&*##& PINK FUZZY SOCKS!!!

  • susan wrote on April 11, 2013 02:44 PM :

    I’m sorry—I did not get the meaning until you spelled it out for me. I didn’t mean to offend you. I forgot about that part of Ashley’s memoir—I haven’t read it myself, and I had already forgotten about that part of the story.

    I guess that’s kind of my point—not about you—but about McConnell and his cronies. They make a laughing matter out of something that is very serious and then try to explain it away by saying things like, “. . .I believe someone’s mental stability may very well be an issue.” Wasn’t there a VP candidate who was maligned just like that a few decades ago?

    McConnell’s true colors have come to light. We see him for what he really is. Lincoln-esque is not one of his qualities, that’s for sure.

  • Dee W. wrote on April 11, 2013 05:37 PM :

    “McConnell’s true colors have come to light. We see him for what he really is. Lincoln-esque is not one of his qualities, that’s for sure.”

    What? That campaigns do opposition research on their opponents and discuss the information privately with the candidate and other staff? Some revelation. Your comments are absurd.

    It’s ridiculous…especially given all of that information was already publicly available.

  • Ignatz wrote on April 11, 2013 05:50 PM :

    And this is supposed to distract people from what he said?

    What you do in darkness will be exposed in the light.

  • Willie K. wrote on April 12, 2013 10:33 AM :

    Millions of Americans struggle with depression and other mental health issues on a daily basis. That means millions more have a loved friend or relative who has a more difficult life due to something beyond their control. For a bunch of arrogant, self-serving jerks who have this much power to be in a room laughing at these issues, when most of them are paid by the taxpayers to deal with helping find solutions to such problems, is incomprehensible. Anyone who made a joke or laughed at a joke about mental health in that room should be fired immediately and banned from ever working for the government again. And that includes their ring leader, Mitch.

  • sam pierce wrote on April 12, 2013 12:04 PM :

    The issue is that Democrats illegally taped this private conversation. Typically, Democrats are shocked, shocked I say, when something bad is said about one of their own. However, hypocritical Democrats think it is OK to say any bad thing they want about Mitch McConnell. They talk about his looks. They talk about the ethnicity of his wonderful wife. As for Ashley Judd’s mental problems, it is a perfectly legitimate issue to discuss whether any candidate has the temperament to hold a public office.

What do you have to say?


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.