Sources: Feds identify Philly woman in probe of secret recordings at GOP retreat

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Philadelphia journalist Emily Guendelsberger has been identified as the woman who infiltrated and might have secretly recorded a closed-door discussion of congressional Republicans at their Center City retreat last week.

Federal authorities have identified a Philadelphia journalist as the woman who infiltrated and might have secretly recorded a closed-door discussion of congressional Republicans at their Center City retreat last week, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the matter.

After a probe involving multiple agencies, they said Emily Guendelsberger is unlikely to face federal charges in Philadelphia, despite getting past security and into a room in the Loews hotel where Vice President Pence met privately with senators and representatives.

But it is unclear whether she could face local prosecution for covertly recording the conversations, a possible violation of state law. That decision falls to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, according to the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Cameron Kline, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, declined to say Friday whether the office was involved in any such investigation. The Capitol Police, who are responsible for security at congressional events, would not discuss the ongoing investigation.

Guendelsberger and her lawyer, Lloyd Long, also declined to comment. Law enforcement officials said both were contacted this week by Capitol Police, who are leading the investigation with aid from the U.S. Secret Service and the Philadelphia Police Department.

Guendelsberger, 33, is a freelance journalist who formerly worked as a copy editor at the Daily News, at Philadelphia City Paper, and as an editor for the Onion, the satirical newspaper and website.

The secret recordings she is suspected of making were later released anonymously to a half-dozen media outlets, including the Inquirer. The stories they fueled also stirred calls from congressional Republicans to determine how an intruder managed to bypass security and record their private gathering.

One recording revealed lawmakers airing concerns about the practical difficulties of repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s health-care law and discussing other hot-button political issues. Another included audio from a session with Pence, suggesting the intruder was in the same room.

The sources familiar with the investigation said Friday that Guendelsberger gained access by saying she was the wife of a legislator. Investigators believe she made the recordings but have not yet confirmed it, the sources said. 

The Congressional Institute, the nonprofit that organized the retreat, said in an email to lawmakers last week that the intruder “misrepresented herself” several times and used counterfeit credentials.

However, she went through the same security checkpoints as every other attendee at the conference, said the letter, obtained last Saturday by the Associated Press.

Secret Service spokesman Martin Mulholland said Friday that Trump and Pence were never in any danger.

“We’re very confident with our Secret Service operations, how they went down in this instance and how it happens in every instance as far as protecting the president and vice president,” he said.

Guendelsberger, who has also previously written for the Inquirer and the Daily News, gained notice in 2015 with a City Paper story in which she went undercover as an Uber driver for a month to report on how much the ride-hailing app service paid its drivers.

She also made headlines after suffering a broken leg in a 2011 flash mob attack at Broad and Spring Garden Streets.

Staff writer Chris Palmer contributed to this article.