- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

The General Accounting Office has found that departing Clinton aides vandalized the White House and Old Executive Office Building, stealing two historic doorknobs, scrawling obscene graffiti on walls and inflicting $14,000 worth of damage.
Those who have seen the GAO report, a preliminary document, say as many as 75 computer keyboards had to be replaced at a cost of more than $5,000 because Clinton staffers had broken off the W keys, a jab at George W. Bush, the winner of the bitterly contested 2000 presidential election, who was often referred to during the campaign as W.
Two historic doorknobs were stolen from the Old Executive Office Building along with a presidential seal, valued at $350, said the sources, who could not detail how the rest of the damages were inflicted.
Chairs and telephone tables were broken, desks were overturned, garbage was strewn in offices and telephone lines were cut, the GAO report says, but does not, in each case, attribute the acts to vandalism.
Democrats dismissed the findings of the investigation which they say cost about $200,000 to conduct just to find $14,000 in damages but one congressman was infuriated by the report.
"It should not matter whether the damage was $14, $14,000 or $40,000, no one should get away with deliberately vandalizing one of our country's most sacred public monuments the White House," said Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican and the initiator of the probe.
Although he has not yet seen the report, Mr. Barr said "the Clinton spin team is still doing what it does best. They consistently refuse to take any responsibility for their actions and instead, seek to shift the blame and obscure the truth."
The preliminary report, which has not reached a "formal draft" stage, is the culmination of nearly a yearlong investigation by the General Accounting Office following accusations by Bush officials that the White House was vandalized by Clinton aides in the days before President Clinton left office Jan. 20.
The charges were made several days after President Bush took office and quickly took on a life of their own amid reports that Mr. Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton removed articles from the White House and Air Force One. The new report does not address accusations that the former president stripped the presidential aircraft.
Mr. Barr on Jan. 29 asked the GAO to investigate the accusations of vandalism. During the investigation that followed, about 70 former Clinton staffers were interviewed, as were about 100 Bush officials.
GAO officials say the report, shown to two Clinton officials and two White House officials this week, is subject to change. Both sides will offer alterations to the report before the GAO completes its formal draft, expected in June.
The General Services Administration in May of last year had discounted reports that embittered Clinton administration officials vandalized property inside the White House shortly before leaving the building on Jan. 20.
"The condition of the real property was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy," the GSA said in a statement.
The White House had little comment yesterday on the matter. "We've put this behind us. We've considered it closed for over a year," said Bush spokeswoman Anne Womack.
What the new report says depends on which side you ask. One former Clinton official who has seen the report said the evidence supports their position: There was no widespread vandalism at the White House, as Bush administration officials have charged.
The Clinton official said less than $1,000 of the $14,000 in damages can be attributed to outgoing staffers, blaming the rest of the cost on simple wear and tear.
"They want to say anything that is wrong is because of us, but that's not substantiated in this report. It just isn't," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The GAO sent out some 500 letters to Bush administration staff soliciting information about the vandalism charges. Few responses, the Clinton official said, contained evidence of intent to damage property.
"Maybe 10 items out of the 30 pages of comments were things that could have been attributed to some wilfull conduct on the part of a staffer," the official said.
"Some wires in [the Old Executive Office Building] were cut, but they had been inactive for a decade. I did not see any documentation of any type of intentional conduct of that nature in the report," the official added.
Democrats also charge that the probe was a wasteful use of public funds.
"You have $14,000 versus $200,000. It really documents less than $1,000 worth of problems that one can attribute to a prankster. So much sound and fury signifying nothing," the former Clinton official said.
One Republican source familiar with the findings, however, said the report confirms that acts of vandalism were committed by departing Clinton staffers. The source adds that the report only cites evidence that has been established "without a reasonable doubt" and could be even more lengthy in the formal draft.
Aside from clear vandalism desks overturned, furniture broken Clinton staffers left obscene voice mail messages, placed pornographic pictures in printers and scrawled profane messages on office and bathroom walls, the source said.
In addition, the report says staffers disabled or reprogrammed at least 75 phones, sending the new Bush aides into chaos for the first few days of the Bush administration, the source said.
"So much of what they did just shows a real lack of respect," the source said.

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