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Operative claims liberal group Progress Kentucky behind secret McConnell recording

A Kentucky Democratic operative claimed Thursday that two leaders with a local liberal group were the ones who secretly recorded a February strategy session with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and his aides. 

The allegation comes after McConnell claimed his office was bugged, following the publication in Mother Jones magazine of the recorded meeting -- where aides could be heard bashing then-potential challenger Ashley Judd. 

Jacob Conway, who is with the Jefferson County Democratic Party, told Fox News that two leaders with the group Progress Kentucky told him at the time that they recorded the session. He said it wasn't a "Nixonian bugging," but could have been recorded with an iPhone. 

Conway told Fox News they recorded the meeting from the hallway, and later told him about it. 

"I don't know why they were at the grand opening of his campaign office. ... They overheard the conversation going on," he said. "To me it was an extremely tacky conversation ... but it was a private conversation nonetheless." 

Conway did not specifically say the operatives gave the tape to Mother Jones, but said: "They told me they were there. They told me they were in the hallway. They have a recording. So you know, you can draw your own conclusions." 

Conway, who said he used to be friends with the two individuals -- Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison -- said he came forward because he didn't want the situation tarnishing the Democratic Party. 

The FBI has been interviewing both Reilly and Morrison as persons of interest in the case, sources tell Fox News, though it is too early to tell whether any law was broken.

At the national level, Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said the party does not condone secret tapings. 

"We would never condone anything like this -- a secret taping. We would never condone it," he said. Woodhouse said he knows nothing about the group in question. 

"Our reaction is that we would like the investigation to take its course." 

Progress Kentucky has not returned a request for comment, but Reilly denied any wrongdoing through an attorney, who told The Hill that he is "at most a witness, not a suspect." The lawyer said Reilly also is working with authorities to locate Morrison.

The FBI is investigating the alleged recording at McConnell's request. A law enforcement official told Fox News the investigation is "moving along," and there are some "people of interest." 

The FBI is conducting interviews and visited McConnell's campaign headquarters on Wednesday. Fox News confirms the FBI also pulled video surveillance footage. 

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton told Fox News that there is a video camera in the lobby where anybody would have to pass through to get to the second floor, where the meeting in question took place. 

"They certainly were not authorized to be there, if they were indeed there," Benton said of the Progress Kentucky operatives. 

The McConnell team meeting covered in the Mother Jones article reportedly took place on Feb. 2. Judd had been seriously considering a challenge to the Senate Republican leader in Kentucky until she opted against running last month. 

The McConnell advisers at the meeting could be heard discussing possible avenues of attack against Judd, one of which concerned her mental state. 

"She's clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it's been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she's suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the '90s," one strategist said.

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