Department of Justice prosecutors in Washington have joined a probe into the secret taping of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at a February meeting where he can be heard discussing the weaknesses of actress and activist Ashley Judd, once seen as a potential Senate challenger.

Politico reports David Hale, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, has recused himself from the case, prompting the Justice Department headquarters to get involved:

The move comes after David Hale, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, recused himself from the McConnell case because he has been mentioned as a possible nominee for a federal judgeship, which would require Senate approval.

At the same time, any attempts to subpoena evidence from Curtis Morrison — a liberal activist who surreptitiously taped McConnell and his aides at a campaign meeting in February — would most likely need the personal approval of Attorney General Eric Holder, according to federal regulations, which require Holder to approve subpoenas for journalists. Morrison was previously a paid freelancer for a Louisville-based, online news outlet, even though he was engaged in political activities with the goal to defeat McConnell.

In April, McConnell's reelection campaign said it was working with the FBI and had contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office over the tape, which featured McConnell making comments about Judd's mental state and religious views. Judd, who announced in March she would not be challenging McConnell, called the tapes "another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell and are pervasive in Washington, D.C."

In May, Curtis Morrison, a former volunteer for the political group Progress Kentucky, admitted to making the tape. In a piece published by Salon, Morrison said "the recording captures [McConnell's] team in some Grade-A jackassery" and said he had no regrets about making the tape.

"If given another chance to record him, I’d do it again," Morrison said.

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