White House officials released a list Saturday of damage they say was done by outgoing staffers of President Clinton, including obscene graffiti in six offices, a 20-inch-wide presidential seal ripped off a wall, 10 cut telephone lines and 100 inoperable computer keyboards.
For months, Democrats had questioned the administration's credibility because officials refused to document charges of vandalism they made in the week after President Bush's inauguration. In April, the General Accounting Office said it was unable to confirm damage, in part because of what it called a "lack of records" from the White House.
Most of the incidents described Saturday by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer were said to have occurred in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. Pornographic or obscene greetings were left on 15 voicemail lines in the offices of the vice president, White House counsel, scheduling and advance, Fleischer said. As a precaution, all phones were disabled and reprogrammed.
The details were provided to the Washington Post after several days of inquiries about the degree of White House cooperation with the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress. The GAO said in April that it "found no damage" to White House real estate. The GAO prepared no report but said in a three-paragraph letter that it could reach no further conclusions because the White House said it had no written record of damage. The letter did not mention the Eisenhower building, where most of the damage was reported.
White House officials had said they did not release the information sooner because of Bush's desire to "move forward."
The vandalism brouhaha started Jan. 21, the day after Bush was inaugurated, with boasts by Clinton staffers that they had removed the "W" keys from computers, and escalated with televised charges by Fleischer on Jan. 25 that departing aides had "cut wires" and performed other acts that the administration was "cataloging."
The episode seemed to deflate Jan. 26, when Bush said the only damage was that there "might have been a prank or two."
Fleischer said Saturday that the written list was prepared Friday, based on the recollections of officials and career government employees, in response to Democrats' "suggestion that the Bush White House made things up."
"We tried to be gracious, but the last administration would not take graciousness," Fleischer said. "By getting the information out, we hope to put an end to this."
Clinton administration officials said the size of the list did not measure up to the luridness of the charges. Clinton's former press secretary Joe Lockhart said the vandalism charges were part of a failed Bush strategy to "make the new administration look good by comparison to the last one."
The only incident Fleischer described in the White House itself was a photocopier in the West Wing that had pictures of naked people interspersed with blank photocopy paper so deep in the tray that they were still popping out weeks after the inauguration.