FBI Probes Recording of McConnell Hardball Talks

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -

Campaign aides to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell proposed using potential opponent Ashley Judd’s past bouts with depression against her if she had decided to challenge him in his re-election bid next year, according to a secret recording posted by a magazine.

Mother Jones Magazine released a recording Tuesday along with an article about a private meeting in which the aides discussed opposition research into potential Democratic challengers. Aides talked and laughed on the recording about Judd’s political positions, religious beliefs and past bouts of depression.

The FBI is looking into how the recording was made after the McConnell campaign accused opponents of engaging in “Watergate-era tactics.” The magazine reported that the recording was provided last week by a source who requested anonymity.

“She’s clearly — this sounds extreme — but she is emotionally unbalanced,” a McConnell aide said of Judd during a February meeting at the Louisville campaign headquarters. “I mean, it’s been documented … she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.”

The FBI confirmed that it was contacted by McConnell’s office and was looking into the matter. The magazine’s Washington bureau chief, David Corn, said in a statement that the magazine wasn’t involved in making the tape but understood it wasn’t the result of bugging.

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton alleged in an email to supporters that “liberals and their media allies” were “wiretapping our field office to spy on us,” even though it wasn’t clear how the recording was obtained.