Entries in Investigation (6)


FBI Visits McConnell Headquarters in Ashley Judd Tape Investigation

Office of Sen. Mitch McConnell(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Federal investigators visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s campaign headquarters in Louisville on Wednesday, and campaign staffers handed over information pertinent to the investigation of a leaked tape that revealed the campaign’s strategy against potential challenger Ashley Judd, a source connected to the McConnell campaign tells ABC News.

The visit is a sign that the leak is being considered seriously by the FBI, which was alerted to the incident Tuesday. McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested that liberal forces in Kentucky bugged his campaign headquarters and leaked a tape of a strategy session to Mother Jones magazine.

In a radio interview, campaign manager Jesse Benton told Mike Huckabee that FBI agents were at headquarters for about an hour.

“They tell us that they’re running down some leads,” Benton said. “For various reasons they need to be very cautious about what they share with me and then what I’m allowed to share on the public side. I can’t comment any further, but this is an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The McConnell campaign is committed to making sure “this is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” according to Benton, who was among the aides in the room for the session that was captured on tape.

The tape revealed the McConnell campaign’s plan to attack Judd as “emotionally unbalanced,” and to focus on her religious beliefs. Judd last month announced that she would not seek the Democratic Senate nomination, after several months of publicly flirting with a run.

In the aftermath of the tape’s release, McConnell has attacked the political left for what he called “Nixonian tactics” of bugging his campaign headquarters, though it’s still not clear who made the tape and who distributed it. The campaign is already fundraising off of the controversy.

Also on Wednesday, Benton claimed Mother Jones mistakenly transcribed the speaker at the beginning of the presentation. He said the line, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, thank them three times, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through” should instead read, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, in their free time, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through.”

“Jesse” may refer to Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, but the word “LA” probably refers to legislative aides or legislative assistants, people who work in McConnell’s senate office.

The distinction is important, because the line Mother Jones reported raised the question of whether McConnell’s aides violated campaign law.

ABC News reporters listened to the recording several times but could not make a definitive judgment on what was said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mark Boal: Government Inquiry Into ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ ‘Crosses a Line’

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- During an interview for “This Week,” “Zero Dark Thirty” screenwriter and producer Mark Boal told Martha Raddatz that the current Senate inquiry into the Oscar-nominated movie could discourage the making of similar films in the future.

“I think that it could discourage other screenwriters or…writers of any kind from making topical movies, it could discourage studios from releasing them,” Boal said. “Criticism is fine, and we, I can take criticism onboard…but there is a difference between criticism and investigation. And I think that crosses a line that hasn’t been crossed really since the ’40s, when you talk about government investigating movies.”

In December, three members of the Senate Intelligence committee  — Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz. — asked the CIA to provide information about the details it gave Boal and “Zero Dark Thirty” director Kathryn Bigelow about the effort to find and later kill Osama bin Laden. The trio also sent a letter to Sony Pictures Entertainment – the studio that released the film – claiming that “Zero Dark Thirty” was “grossly inaccurate” in suggesting torture played a role in extracting information that would eventually lead to bin Laden.

On the criticism aimed at the film’s accuracy, Boal pushed back to a degree.

“These topics are controversial. I think the controversy in a lot of ways predates the film.  And I believe that we capture the essence of what happened and  so do many other people who have lived through it,” Boal said. “I approached the research the way I would’ve approached the research of any article or if I was writing a book.  But then there’s a second stage, which is you take that research and you compile it and transform it into a screenplay.  It’s dramatized.”

Joining Boal for the interview was Mark Bowden, best-selling author of “Blackhawk Down,” and the new book “The Finish” who said describing the film as journalism placed an “unfair burden” on it.

“I think it’s really an unfair burden of expectation to put on a feature film, to call it journalistic.  I mean, journalism is very detailed…you try to get down in the weeds and sort out exactly what happened, ” he said. “And I don’t think that a feature film is really a place where that happens.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Capitol Hill Burglaries Under Investigation

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After a number of Capitol Hill offices have fallen victim to a crime wave of burglary and theft this spring, the U.S. Capitol Police continues to investigate who might be responsible, leaving congressional staffers on high alert and clamping down on their personal belongings and office equipment.

At least five congressional offices, all on the House side of the Capitol, were broken into last month, with most of the break-ins suspected to have occurred after office hours when the workplace was empty.

Among the victims, Rep. Jon Runyan, a freshman Republican from New Jersey, who was targeted twice in back-to-back weeks. Sources close to Runyan say that in the first instance a personal Burberry scarf was lifted from the congressman’s personal office. A staff member’s jacket was also stolen from a common area of the office, in addition to various knickknacks from office desks, and about $10 to $20 in coins. When burglars came back a week later, a Flip camera and a Canon digital camera were also stolen.

In the office of Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., the perpetrator also took alcohol, including some “commemorative” wine bottles in the office and other items like autographed baseballs. Staffers were also disappointed to learn that a 30-year collection of commemorative eggs autographed by numerous presidents of the United States from the White House Easter egg roll was stolen. Everything burglarized from Lewis’s office was taken from staff areas, except for a baseball that Whitey Ford autographed, which was taken from a display cabinet in the congressman’s personal office.

Staffers working for the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform also had cash stolen from their desks. The Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security was also reportedly targeted for theft.

At the office of Rep. Trey Gowdy, a freshman Republican from South Carolina, thieves broke in April 11 and stole valuable electronics, including a 27″ Apple Cinema display monitor, valued at $999; a Canon EOS Rebel XS camera, valued at $479; a Nikon camera, valued at $270; and various office supplies.

According to the members’ handbook, lawmakers are held personally accountable for any thefts from their offices. Once a police report is filed, the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer [CAO] investigates the theft with the help of the U.S. Capitol Police.

In a Dear Colleague letter responding to the thefts sent to all offices in the House of Representatives, the committee on House Administration announced that police have increased surveillance and patrols and asks that all offices “remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious activity to the USCP Criminal Investigations Section.”

In a letter obtained by ABC News, Daniel Strodel, the Chief Administrative Officer, wrote Gowdy May 4 to inform him that the CAO had “completed its investigation regarding the Apple Monitor reported stolen” and he was liable to send a personal check for $763.63 to the United States Treasury.

The letter, which is described as standard operating procedure, also informed Gowdy of his right to appeal for a waiver from the Committee on House Administration, which the congressman quickly filed. Gowdy just learned Wednesday that he successfully won his appeal for a waiver.

Now, rather than having to pay out cash from his own pocket, the liability is transferred to the taxpayer, as the cost of replacing the equipment can be covered by a Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA], which is the budget authorized by Congress for each member in support of their duties to their constituents.

Congressional sources explain that the waiver is almost always granted as long as there is not proven negligence, and the liability rules are intended to bring accountability to a member’s office.

A source within Runyan’s office revealed that staff has since made it a habit to lock any personal items in their desks at the close of business, and the office also changed its cleaning schedule, moving from night cleaning when the office is empty, to an early-morning clean-up as the day is beginning.

Although the USCP won’t reveal whether they have any promising leads or suspects, congressional sources said that the practice is usually for a supervisor with a master key to unlock multiple offices at night to enable a team of custodial staff to move freely throughout the office buildings.

So how common are burglaries in congressional offices? With more than 10,000 employees at work every day on Capitol Hill, sources believe it’s not entirely uncommon.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who recently served for four years as speaker of the House, said that she is not aware of any instances of theft from any of her offices during her 25-year congressional career, but she said she would not be surprised if something has been taken over the years.

“I don’t think so, not that I’m aware of,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “But I’ve been here 25 years, so somebody must have. I don’t know if anything happened way back when, but nothing of any consequence.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


No IRS Investigation into South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

Renee Ittner-McManus Office of the Governor(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- ABC News has learned that the Internal Revenue Service never conducted an investigation into South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s involvement in a Sikh temple’s finances. Nanette Downing, Director of EO Examinations, stated in the letter, “…we did not conduct an examination for the above period (tax year ended 2009)."

Eric Hill, a program manager at the IRS, said in a separate letter to Haley’s chief of staff Tim Pearson that “we determined an examination was not warranted at that time.”

Earlier this week, Logan Smith wrote for a little-known website, The Palmetto Public Record, that Haley, a Republican, faced a federal investigation of her finances and those of the Sikh Religious Society, with which her family has been associated:

“There has been a great deal of chatter lately regarding a federal investigation of the Sikh worship center run by Gov. Nikki Haley’s father, Dr. Ajit Randhawa. Speculation on the probe’s target has run anywhere from delinquent taxes to money laundering and tax fraud, with varying accounts of the governor’s own involvement in the temple’s shady finances.”

In an exclusive interview in Columbia, S.C. Friday afternoon, Haley adamantly denied the allegations.

“I was never an accountant for the temple,” Haley said. "I have nothing to do with the temple. My dad and the Indian community started the temple, not him. There is no truth. I never did a deposit. I never wrote a check. I never touched the books. I never had anything to do with it."

“The IRS letter they got -- from what I understand is a standard, just checking the tax-exempt status,” said Haley. “There is nothing, nothing, you can call any federal department of justice, everybody said there is nothing there. There is nothing there. What is sad in our country, what’s really sad in politics, is that a blogger can throw something out with no proof, no truth, no accuracy, total lies and that the media picks it up. It’s a very, very sad thing. There’s multiple stories of that in the book. But there’s multiple stories that continue to happen. And I will tell you every time this happens, I will call them out on it. How sad is that? That someone can go and make up everything you just said and absolutely none of it, none of it be true. It’s a terrible thing.”

Asked again whether there was any truth to the allegations, Haley shot back, “No, none!  Absolute lies. I have never received any sort of letter, there is no investigation, there is nothing going on, it can all be verified by any agency you talk to. Absolutely not. What I can verify is these are the things I and Sarah Palin talked about -- it will never stop. It will never stop. Because the more I do, the more attacks there will be. I’m okay with that because all it does is keep me kicking. ”

Governor Haley is no stranger to controversy.  In her race for governor in 2009, she battled against two claims that she had been unfaithful to her husband. Those allegations were also never proven to be true.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Donald Trump and The Biggest Unanswered Birther Question

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

By ABC News' John Berman

(NEW YORK) -- There is a big gaping question still not answered in the whole birther controversy; a question with major implications for a possible Presidential aspirant.  The question is, what is Donald Trump hiding?

You’ll remember, in the frenzied weeks of his media tour questioning the already proven facts of the President’s birthplace, Mr. Trump made some eye-raising claims.  He said he had investigators on the ground in Hawaii looking for the President’s birth certificate, and not only that, they were finding “amazing things.”  He told MSNBC: “I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding.”

Then, he went further, telling CNN: “ I've been told very recently… that the birth certificate is missing."  On national television, Trump said "I've been told that it's not there or it doesn't exist.”

Given that the President released his birth certificate, it clearly does exist.  At a minimum, this existence seems to call into question the credibility of Mr. Trump’s sources, if not their actual existence.

Remember, these were the investigators Trump allegedly had on the ground in Hawaii who “could not believe what they’re finding.”

Given that the President’s birth certificate proves (again) that he was born in Hawaii, what did these investigators find that they couldn’t believe?

These questions were put to Mr. Trump in New Hampshire on Wednesday.  What were the investigators finding?  One time he responded, “I got him to give his birth certificate.  No one else did, and most of the press is congratulating me.”

And at his news conference, he was asked directly, “Were you making this up?  Where does this information come from?”

His answer?  “No, what I think you are going to see,  first we have to look at the certificate, but I am really happy that this has finally taken place. Because we have some major issues that are unbelievably important.”

When told by this reporter that he did not answer the question, his response was: “I think I did, I did.  I did answer the question.”

Of course, the records of his alleged investigation in Hawaii could put all this to rest.  But Trump does not seem willing to release them.

For weeks, people have been questioning his motivations for raising the “birther” issue.  Now, it seems fair to at least question his facts, and perhaps his honesty.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


'Good Govt' Group to Ask IRS for Investigation of Group Run by Former WH Staffers

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer Friday indicated his group and the Campaign Legal Center would ask the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the new group Priorities U.S.A., an independent organization that does not need to disclose its donors that will participate in the 2012 election.
Having called for an IRS investigation into the conservative independent group Crossroads GPS last October, Wertheimer said in a statement, Democracy 21 will call for a “similar investigation of whether Priorities U.S.A. is operating in violation of its section 501(c)(4) tax status because it has a primary purpose of participating in political campaigns in support of, or in opposition to, candidates for public office.”
Priorities U.S.A. is run by former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, the former chief of staff to then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Last year, President Obama was very critical of groups such as Crossroads GPS, which former Bush political guru Karl Rove helped found, telling a Delaware crowd that anonymous donors to these independent groups “don't have the courage to stand up and disclose their identities. They could be insurance companies or Wall Street banks or even foreign-owned corporations. We will not know because there's no disclosure. But this isn't just a threat to the Democrats: It's a threat to our democracy.”
American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio called the formation of these new Democratic independent groups  evidence of President Obama’s “brazen hypocrisy” since according to Collegio -- though there is no evidence of it -- President Obama “encourage(ed) his own operatives to start groups exactly like the ones he demagogued last year.”
Sweeney Friday issued a statement saying that the new groups are part of “an effort to level the playing field.  Americans deserve an honest debate about job creation, the economy, national security and education.  That debate will never happen if only right wing extremists are engaged on the battlefield.”
Wertheimer Friday said the two independent groups founded by Sweeney and Burton “clearly have been formed to make expenditures in support of the re-election of President Obama in 2012” and thus should not be allowed to exist in the tax code as “social welfare groups” that don’t have to disclose donors.
Asked for comment Friday about the groups, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “We don’t control outside groups. These are not people working for the administration.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio