What tick-tock facts emerge in the coming days, and whether Berger is indicted, are obviously huge elements in determining where this goes.
You'll notice that the Bush campaign has said next to nothing on the record about all this, and the Kerry campaign is standing pat with the short paper statement from the candidate.
The general Republican view can be summed up thusly: isn't this suspicious; what did Berger do exactly?; what did Kerry know and when did he know it?; and how can Democrats try to get away with this and will the press let them?
Now, do more forthcoming GOPers actually think that there is some automatically big political story here? Maybe not. But they are going to try to make it one.
The general Democratic view can be summed up this way: Berger did a really stupid thing; how could he not have told the Kerry campaign he was being investigated?; the timing of the leak is absurd; and Republicans have completely ruined their chances to make political hay over this by having the Hill and talk radio make this a shrill, partisan fight about someone who no longer works for the Kerry campaign and about whom the public knows next to nothing.
The Democrats are pushing back from some classic boogeymen tactics that we won't even repeat here.
So, our questions:
1. Are there Archive employees whose tales will be told who will put out at least a Rashomon version of what Berger did?
2. Is taking Notes out of the Archive — as Berger admits he did — a crime or simply a violation of Archive rules? In either case, what are the penalties?
3. Since several news organizations reported that Berger put documents in his socks, and attributed it to government sources, and Berger's spokespeople denied it — what are we to make of that?
4. How many Lannys does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
5. Who wrote the anti-Berger, anti-Kerry talking points that seemed to be being uniformly used by Hill Republicans, Rush, Sean, and unnamed Republicans close to the Bush campaign?
6. Why Gordon Smith?
Berger attorney Lanny Breuer made the morning show rounds today, telling ABC's Charlie Gibson that it is "absolutely false" that Berger put documents in his socks, and added "scurrilous" to the charge when talking with NBC's Katie Couric. ABC's George Stephanopoulos Noted on "Good Morning America" that "without those socks, this thing would not have taken off like it did yesterday."
The Washington Post's Susan Schmidt reports on Berger's withdrawal from advising the Kerry campaign, and includes this detail: "A government official with knowledge of the probe said Berger removed from archives files all five or six drafts of a critique of the government's response to the millennium terrorism threat, which he said was classified 'codeword,' the government's highest level of document security." LINK
"A Kerry adviser said the expanding controversy convinced the campaign that Berger's departure was essential because of the serious distraction it posed for Kerry in the week before the Democratic Party nominates him for president," Schmidt reports.
USA Today's Mimi Hall and Jill Lawrence Note at the very end of their story, "Some Republicans, including White House spokesman Scott McClellan and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., were more restrained than their party colleagues. McCain called Berger 'a fine and honorable man who we should presume innocent until proven guilty.'" LINK