WASHINGTON — Rep. James McDermott, D-Wash., has acknowledged leaking to the media a recording of a phone call between Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
A Florida couple used a scanner to intercept the December 1996 conference call in which Boehner, Gingrich and other House leaders discussed strategy involving announcement of an ethics committee finding against Gingrich.
The couple gave the tape to McDermott and the contents soon surfaced in news stories. The couple later pleaded guilty to unlawfully intercepting the call and were fined $500 each.
Boehner sued McDermott, alleging he was responsible for the leak. In court papers filed last month, McDermott admitted he was the source.
According to the filings, McDermott said the couple traveled to the Capitol and handed him a sealed envelope with the tape inside. McDermott recognized the voices on the tape and believed the contents to be of "significant public interest." He allowed two reporters to separately listen to the tape.
Boehner’s lawsuit accuses McDermott of violating a federal wiretapping law barring people from disclosing information they know was obtained by illegally intercepting a "wire, oral or electronic communication."
McDermott says accepting the tape did not break the law and punishing him for making it public would violate his free-speech rights.
The case is pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
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