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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Rallying the faithful

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush rallies the faithful in Missouri and Iowa today, marking the second time in two days that the Bush-Cheney ticket has courted Show Me State voters.

(It's Bush's 19th visit to Missouri as president. Monday was Dick Cheney's sixth.)

Meanwhile, Dems step up attacks on Ralph Nader for relying on those GOP faithful to get on the Michigan ballot.

While John Kerry continues to lie low in Nantucket, Kerry-Edwards continues its drip-drip-drip rollout of the convention persona, today providing info-starved reporters with precious morsels of "news" detailing the "extraordinary" and "unprecedented" role that veterans will play in Boston next week. (Note: Sources say Kerry is a military veteran.)

The campaign holds a conference call at 9:30 a.m.ET for the daily feeding.

One "headline" we're bracing for: More than 500 veterans will attend the convention as delegates, which the campaign calls a party record.

Question to Cahill/Devine/Donilon/Meehan/Cutter: If there's one thing voters already know about Kerry, it's that he's a veteran. Trust us on this. And he's still stuck in a dead heat against a weak incumbent. What's Plan B?.

To get a glimpse of Plan B, we might have to wait until August, when sources say the Democratic National Committee will launch its own ad blitz on Kerry's behalf.

The DNC ads, financed with $63 million-plus that Chairman Terry McAuliffe has set aside, will start running as Kerry pulls his own advertising to save money for the fall campaign.

Speaking of McAuliffe, Democrats are intensifying their anti-Nader campaign after Nader qualified for a slot on the Michigan ballot with the admitted help of Republican groups hoping he'll draw votes from Kerry. Michigan GOP officials last Thursday handed in 43,000 petition signatures -- far more than the 30,000 needed -- to ensure that Nader could be on the ballot regardless of whether he gets the Reform Party nomination. The Nader campaign handed in about 5,400. You do the math.

Berger investigated

Also today, we're monitoring fallout from new reports that former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, now an unpaid adviser to Kerry-Edwards, is under federal criminal investigation for allegedly removing classified documents from a secure screening room while preparing for testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Berger in a statement last night called taking the documents "inadvertent" and said, "I deeply regret the sloppiness." (Federal probe targets Clinton's national security adviser)

Days before the commission releases its final report, sources close to Berger acknowledge he has been told he was under federal investigation over notes and classified documents he allegedly took out of the reviewing room.

CNN's John King reports that two issues are being examined: handwritten notes Berger made after reviewing the documents (National Archives rules require permission be given to do that) and documents he may have taken.

Sources said the documents included the "after action" report drafts on Clinton administration efforts to stop al Qaeda attacks around the Year 2000 celebrations. The notes and documents were allegedly removed after Berger spent 30 hours over several days reviewing "tens of thousands" of documents for testimony before the commission.

Berger serves as an informal advisor to Kerry on national security matters.

Berger met during much of the day with attorneys. Among those he has hired is former Clinton administration lawyer Lanny Breuer. Source say Breuer has been in contact with prosecutors. Sources say Berger is stressing a willingness to cooperate, but investigators have not yet asked to speak with him.

In a statement released last night, Berger wrote, "In the course of reviewing over several days thousands of pages of documents on behalf of the Clinton administration in connection with requests by the 9/11 commission, I inadvertently took a few documents from the Archives. I also took my notes on the documents reviewed. When I was informed by the Archives there were documents missing, I immediately returned everything I had, except for a few documents that apparently I had accidentally discarded. I deeply regret the sloppiness involved but had no intention of withholding documents from the commission and, to the contrary, to my knowledge every document requested by the commission from the Clinton administration was produced."

A former Clinton administration colleague last night questioned the timing of the story, emerging just days before the Democratic convention in Boston.

"There is a story here and Sandy (Berger) concedes he made an inadvertent mistake," the colleague said. "But this has been kept confidential for months. So why now?"


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