Bennet statement on terror probe reveals staff scramble for updates

E-mail statement on anti-terror investigation from Sen. Michael Bennet, including staff discussion (click to enlarge PDF).
E-mail statement on anti-terror investigation from Sen. Michael Bennet, including staff discussion (click to enlarge PDF).

An e-mailed statement sent Tuesday evening from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office about an anti-terrorism investigation with Colorado ties inadvertently included a chain of more than a dozen e-mails from staffers scrambling to update the boss and worrying whether news organizations might conclude the state’s junior senator wasn’t “as much in the loop” as U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

In the e-mail — which a Bennet press aide almost immediately tried to recall with a subsequent message — Bennet staffers propose the senator tell reporters he has “been in close contact” with FBI Director Robert Mueller “[s]ince early this morning,” when it appears staff members are still trying to arrange a conversation late in the afternoon.

Read the entire e-mail chain sent by Bennet’s office to the media here. Phone numbers and explicit e-mail addresses have been deleted.

The e-mail snafu occurs at a particularly bad time for Bennet, who was appointed in January by Gov. Bill Ritter to fill the seat of Ken Salazar, who was appointed U.S. Interior secretary earlier this year. On Wednesday, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff plans to announce his candidacy challenging Bennet in next year’s Democratic primary.

According to the hurried e-mails, aides appear to be concerned other senators — including Colorado’s Udall and New York’s Charles Schumer — are already talking to the press hours before Bennet, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, has managed to say anything.

“Bummed we missed this — I was under the impression we were being asked not to talk — looks like everyone else did and will lieky [sic] get the press,” wrote Sarah Hughes, Bennet’s deputy chief of staff. “Lesson learned for next time.”

“I’m sure it’s what the fbi/mueller is telling the members to say,” Murphy writes after another staffer points out Schumer told reporters virtually the same thing as Udall.

Eventually, a two-sentence, official statement emerged, after Bennet’s communications director, Dierdre Murphy frets that “right now the [Denver Post] thinks that [Bennet] hasn’t received a briefing and I think we need to make clear that we are as much in the loop on this as Udall.”

“We have been monitoring this situation closely and I have been in touch with the U.S. Deputy Attorney General. I will continue to keep close contact with law enforcement and work to ensure they have the resources they need.”

“Effective communication and intelligence sharing is a critical component for protecting our communities,” a legislative aide suggests Bennet say in a series of “rough talking points.”

The list also includes a note suggesting how Bennet can answer any questions about wiretaps:

If asked about the government’s surveillance techniques (possible use of wiretaps), he can say: I can’t comment on the details of this investigation at this time. There are a lot of details that are still emerging.

Udall issued a statement roughly an hour before Bennet’s statement went out:

I have been in contact with officials at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security about an ongoing anti-terrorism investigation, and I will continue to talk with those offices as long as is necessary. While the details are classified, I want to assure Coloradans that there is no imminent threat to our state or to the nation, and that state, local and federal law enforcement agencies are working together to respond as needed.

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