A memo, letter, or e-mail message that contains irrefutable evidence of a crime.
The hot seat may feel like an electric chair on Wednesday when senators get to ask Pat Wood III, President Bush's chief power regulator, what he's going to do about smoking memos showing that Enron plotted to manipulate Western electrical prices in last year's crisis.
Joel Connelly, "Time to answer for energy price gouging," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May13, 2002
Before the elections were through, Williams had filed an official demand with the city to review all documents relating to the Florida International Museum. Williams was hoping to find the smoking memo that would indicate Fischer knew of the museum‘s financial instability months before museum officials flagged their problems publicly.
—David K. Rogers, “Mayor, council hope to strengthen relations,” St. Petersburg Times (Florida), March 27, 1997
In other cases, Administration and contra sources said, a National Security Council aide, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, put rebel officials in touch with Americans who could help them raise money and obtain arms.
But in every case, the sources said, the White House aides were careful to avoid giving direct orders to either the contras or their backers.
"You're not going to find a smoking memo in this program," one knowledgeable U.S. official said. "It's not that simple."
Doyle McManus, "Bush linked to Contra supply operation," Los Angeles Times, October 11, 1986