White House vandalism reports are unfounded

Condition of property not out of ordinary in transition, GSA says

May 18, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - The General Services Administration has found that departing members of the Clinton administration did not vandalize the White House during the presidential transition, as unnamed aides to President Bush and other critics had insisted.

Responding to a request from Rep. Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican who asked for an investigation, the GSA found that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

"The condition of the real property was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy," according to a GSA statement.

In other words, no wholesale slashing of cords to computers, copiers and telephones, no evidence of lewd graffiti or pornographic images. GSA didn't bother to nail down reports of pranks, which were more puckish than destructive. Clinton aides apparently removed the "w" key from some computer keyboards and placed signs on doors that said things as "Office of Strategery."

The unverified charges of wanton property destruction in the White House and on Air Force One was a hot story in the early days of the Bush administration.

But none of it happened. An official at Andrews Air Force Base, which maintains the presidential jets, told Knight Ridder Newspapers at the height of the controversy that nothing was missing. President Bush acknowledged that a few days later.

"They told me that there were papers that were not organized laying on the floor and on desks, there were some scratches here and there, but the bottom line was they didn't see anything ... that would appear to some as real extensive damage," said Bernard Unger, director for physical infrastructure for the General Accounting Office, which asked GSA to look into the allegations. Barr's office did not return calls.

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