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That thud you heard this afternoon? The jaws of Jeanine Pirro's campaign staffers. It turns out that Republican candidate for NY State Attorney General Pirro is under state and federal criminal investigation. WNBC's Jonathan Dienst had the scoop: State and federal agencies were looking into whether Pirro eavesdropped on her husband, who she suspected might be cheating on her. (Well, he did father a love child a couple years into their marriage.)

So she asked her good friend, former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik (yes, that Bernard Kerik who lost the Homeland Security nomination over nanny issues and who pleaded guilty to accepting a $200,000 "gift" of home renovations) about planting a bug on her husband's boat last summer.

Sources told NewsChannel 4 that in one conversation, Pirro complained that one of Kerik's employees was reluctant to board Albert Pirro's boat.

Jeanine Pirro suggests, "We can just simply say, if there is an issue, that I am redecorating it for our anniversary.” She complains that Kerik’s man is, “uncomfortable with that.”

Kerik responded by saying, “But Jeanine, I’m having the same f------g problem with everybody. Everybody is panic stricken because it’s you. I’ve gone out on a limb. I had two other people looking at this. It’s a problem.”

Pirro said, “What am I supposed to do, Bernie? Watch him f--k her every night? What am I supposed to do? I can go on the boat. I’ll put the f-----g thing on myself.”

Minutes later, Kerik called a contact at Giuliani Partners, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s consulting firm, asking him to find a recording device, according to documents.

Wow - you do not want to get Jeanine Pirro mad. Also - ooh, now Giuliani Partners is involved! And to think, the only reason why Pirro and Kerik's conversation was recorded was because of the federal investigation into Kerik's activities! Way to pick your friends. Also, Pirro implied if it weren't for her husband (who was found guilty of trying to hide $1.2 million in 2000), she'd be able to "move to the governor's mansion" and also called the attorney general race a "been there, done that kind of thing.” (Pirro was hoping to run against Hillary Clinton for the Senate, until Republican party bosses told her "no way" and pushed her into the AG race.)

2006_09_pirro3.jpgThis afternoon, after WNBC 4 broke the story, Pirro held an emotional press conference. You can watch WNBC's video - it's really incredible - but here's a description of one part from the NY Times:

“There is no way — when I have the opportunity to be the first woman attorney general in the history of this state — that I am going to be pushed out of this race because somebody wants to delve into the personal lives of my husband and myself,” she said. “I’m standing up for myself and I’m standing up for women.”

Ms. Pirro said that she ultimately decided against surreptitiously taping her husband. “I was a very angry woman, and I said a lot of things, but what matters is what I did and didn’t do,” she said. “I didn’t do anything here other than vent.”

Pirro believes that investigation is politically motivated - a "witch hunt and smear campaign" - saying that one of the federal attorneys was the same one that sucessfully prosecuted her husband in 2000 for tax evasion; here's a statement from the US Attorney's office. Pirro also said she wanted to keep her marriage going because of her children - and besides, if she had bugged her husband's boat, that's legal because it's private property (or something like that).

"Sometime last year, I came to believe that my husband was seeing another woman," Pirro said. "In the midst of matrimonial discord, I was angry and had him followed to see if what I suspected was true. Although I spoke about taping him, there was no taping by me of anyone. There was anger, and frustration, and disappointment."

Ben Smith at the Daily Politics has some interesting insights: 1) One of Dienst's producers is a former FBI agent; and 2) it's probably not good news for her campaign. The NY Times' Empire Zone says that Rudy Giuliani is no longer holding a fundraiser for Pirro. Pirro says she's not dropping out of the Attorney General race - yet - but we want to know what you think:

You can check out her website see her new ad, which touts her experience. We saw it during the 11PM news.

Photograph of Jeanine Pirro during yesterday's press conference by Kathy Wilens/AP