Call for inquiry into anti-Kerry campaign

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The Independent US

President George W Bush has been pushed onto the defensive in the row over John Kerry's war record in Vietnam after leading Democrats demanded a full legal investigation into the affair.

President George W Bush has been pushed onto the defensive in the row over John Kerry's war record in Vietnam after leading Democrats demanded a full legal investigation into the affair.

The call comes after a Republican campaign lawyer, Benjamin Ginsberg, resigned after admitting advising the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has aired adverts questioning the Massachusetts senator's war record.

But yesterday there were growing signs that the controversy has taken a toll on both sides. A poll for the Los Angeles Timesshowed that Mr Bush has reclaimed a narrow lead in the contest for the White House and that Mr Kerry's credibility as commander-in-chief had been damaged by the allegations he had lied over the engagements for which he had received his decorations.

Despite accumulating evidence that the version of events 35 years ago in the Mekong delta peddled by anti-Kerry veterans is false, their book Unfit for Command has soared to the top of the best seller list.

Following Mr Ginsberg's resignation, senior Democrats demanded a full Justice Department probe of whether he had violated federal election rules which outlaw co-ordination between candidates' organisations and the independent "527" groups running the ads. The Bush-Cheney campaign denied all involvement with the group.

The controversy now threatens to interfere with the Republican convention in New York next week. Democrats and their sympathisers are likely to unleash a fresh barrage of "527" attack ads during the convention.

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