- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Departing Clinton administration staff forwarded the incoming chief of staff's phone calls to a telephone in a closet and left profane messages about President Bush in the restroom in the days before the Bush administration came to power, according to a list of incidents the White House produced for a report released yesterday.
After a year-long inquiry, the General Accounting Office the nonpartisan, investigative arm of the government concluded that Clinton staffers had vandalized the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
"Incidents such as the removal of keys from computer keyboards; the theft of various items; the leaving of certain voice-mail messages, signs and written messages; and the placing of glue on desk drawers, clearly were done intentionally," the investigators said in the report, confirming details first reported in The Washington Times.
The GAO couldn't confirm the White House's calculation of at least $20,000 worth of damage. But the report cited 62 keyboards that had to be replaced after the "W" keys were pulled off, 10 antique doorknobs found damaged or missing and several presidential seals, including a 12-inch-diameter seal from the Eisenhower building, reported stolen by the Secret Service. The report said Bush staffers also found phone cords pulled from walls, desks turned on their sides and trash dumped in offices.
But the report also said investigators often couldn't pinpoint which incidents that the White House reported had actually happened, which ones were intentional and who was responsible.
The report also didn't detail some of the more profane signs or graffiti that Bush staffers said they found. But in a 76-page response included in the report, the Bush White House listed some of them:
"What W did to democracy, you are about to do in here," read the graffiti in one restroom.
cNotes were left that read: "Jail to the thief" and "W happens," and staffers found several signs promising that Democrats would regain control in four years and a number of copies of a sign comparing the president to a chimpanzee.
cA sign caricaturing MasterCard commercials was taped to a desk and read: "New bong: $50, cocaine habit: $300, finding out that the good-old-boy network can still rig an election in the deep south: priceless. For the rest of us there's honesty."
Outgoing staffers left at least 10 obscene or inappropriate voice-mail greetings, causing the voice-mail system to be shut down for a few days at the beginning of the new administration.
Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican and the person who requested the GAO investigation, said that the Clinton staffers "disgraced not just themselves, but institution and office of the presidency."
"The Clinton administration treated the White House worse than college freshmen checking out of their dorm rooms," he said.
Yesterday a Bush administration spokeswoman said the matter is closed as far as the administration is concerned.
"While the GAO has confirmed that there was damage done to the White House, we've considered this matter closed for over a year, and our focus is on moving forward," Anne Womack said.
But the White House took it seriously enough at the time to save many of the notes and signs, which they showed to investigators, and put together the long response to the GAO's report.
Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said the report refuted initial claims of hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and that the "tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars wasted in producing this report is outrageous."
She also pointed to the GAO's interviews with Clinton staffers, who said they found the offices in bad shape during the 1993 transition.
"I think that the White House should be treated with respect, and any sort of prank is regrettable, but I think this is not malicious intent here and that Clinton staff faced the same type of pranks coming into the administration and we laughed them off, and it's too bad the Bush administration could not do the same," she said.
Bernard L. Unger, the chief author of the report, said the GAO left out some of the specific signs and graffiti because they were too "raunchy" and others because it was unable to prove them.


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