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Clinton aide denies reports of White House vandalism

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Though President Bush said "there might have been a prank or two," a Clinton administration official Friday denied reports of last-minute vandalism at the White House by workers with the just-departed Democratic tenants.

Mark Lindsay, former President Clinton's assistant for Management and Administration, told CNN he toured the White House just before George W. Bush's inaugural Saturday and "did not see one instance of vandalism, not a single one."

He said he saw some 100 computers during the walk-through of the West Wing and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and has no recollection of the letter "W" missing from the keyboards, as was reported by Republican sources.

Lindsay conceded some offices were in disarray, but he explained, "If people are working around the clock, their first priority is not keeping it the neatest."

On CNN's "The Point with Greta Van Susteren," Lindsay said most of the West Wing offices had been vacated earlier in the week so that painters and other workers could spruce them up for the incoming administration.

"(Saturday) the West Wing was in the process of being painted and offices scraped clean," he said. "I did not see any of these things that are alleged. I have not heard one person who has been able to come forward and speak and say it on the record that they actually observed these things."

"What I saw left behind ... I saw kind notes of wishing well to the persons who were coming in from several senior staff members to other people," Lindsay said.

President Bush sought to downplay the significance of anything done by departing Clinton staffers.

"There might have been a prank or two. Maybe somebody put a cartoon on the wall, but that's OK," he said following a White House meeting with governors on the issue of education. "It's time now to move forward. It's time to focus our attention on what's possible and how to get children educated."

Still, the new administration was documenting what it contends took place.

"The cataloguing that I mentioned, frankly, that's one person in our administrative offices who is really just keeping track in his head about things that may have taken place," Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary, told reporters at his daily briefing.

Fleischer indicated there would not be any formal investigation.

Republican sources told CNN that the pranks included removing the letter "w" from computer keyboards, forwarding some calls from various offices to the chief of staff's office and leaving signs on doors poking fun at Bush's occasional verbal pratfalls, such as one sign saying "Office of the Strategerie."

One Republican with close ties to the Bush White House, who has been at the White House "a couple of times," told CNN that there was "trash everywhere," that some phone lines were cut and there was graffiti on at least one wall.

"The condition was appalling," said this Republican official who did not want to be identified.

The official said that Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, has asked his staff to focus on the business of governing, and not on these alleged pranks.

When Fleischer was asked Thursday if workers who were repainting and recarpeting the White House may have accidentally been responsible for any cut lines, the Bush spokesman said, "I don't think that the people who are professionals, who make it their business to go in and prepare the White House for new arrivals, would cut wires."

Fleischer also told reporters President Bush was settling into the White House "very nicely."

"He walks his dogs in the evening. He's been running almost every day, and he's establishing a routine. He's up usually at about 5:45, gets into the Oval Office typically between 7 o'clock in the morning and 7:15 in the morning. So his routine is established, and I think he's enjoying White House life."


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Friday, January 26, 2001

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