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

04/10/2013 06:22 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 is the producer of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. In addition to booking guests and pulling all of the information from the field together into a half-hour show, Jacqueline is also a regular contributor to “The Grind.” That’s a weekly segment with the cn|2 political staff to take a closer look at some of the most important, most interesting and often least talked about happenings in Kentucky politics. Jacqueline is from Nashville, but she’s a proud Western Kentucky University graduate. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqueline_cn2. She can be reached at 502-792-1114 or jacqueline.pitts@twcnews.com.

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