A remarkable CNN scoop: "The FBI has been asked to investigate how Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, obtained a recording of political aides meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell discussing opposition research on Ashley Judd, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said Tuesday.
"In the recordings, political operatives . . . are heard discussing potentially attacking Judd's mental health, as well as her left-leaning politics, if she had decided to make a bid against McConnell, who's running for a sixth term in office next year.
"In a statement, McConnell campaign manager Benton said that 'we've always said the Left will stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters is above and beyond.' "
The recordings show the McConnell team debating the use of tactics that are nasty but not that unusual by opposition research standards.
Note CNN's use of the passive voice: The FBI "has been asked" to investigate Mother Jones. The article doesn't tell us who asked the FBI to probe this, and there's no indication that CNN asked the McConnell campaign whether it had requested the investigation.
FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer declined to confirm or deny that the request had been made. Typically, the agency won't specify who made such a request, whether it was made or how seriously it's being taken. Theoretically, then, a campaign can ask the FBI to investigate in such a situation and then leak to the press that such a request has been made. Result: a story from an outlet such as CNN saying that the FBI "has been asked" to investigate a political opponent, with no indication of who did the asking.
I asked McConnell's Senate and campaign offices for clarification; his Senate spokesman referred me to campaign spokesman Jesse Benton, who has yet to reply. Later reports indicated that McConnell's campaign asked for the FBI investigation.
The campaign's charge that someone (initially the suggestion was that Mother Jones had done it; later McConnell accused Progress Kentucky, a liberal group) engaged in "Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign head-quarters" is intriguing; it constitutes a suggestion of lawbreaking.
It's a serious allegation, and if it were made without evidence by the campaign of the Senate minority leader -- perhaps the most powerful elected Republican official in the country -- it's a big deal.
Mother Jones sent a statement asserting that it did not make the tape. From the statement: "As the story makes clear, we were recently provided the tape by a source who wished to remain anonymous. . . . It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation."
Excerpted from washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line