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CNN Today

Bush Staff Reluctant to Discuss Clinton Administration Vandalism

Aired January 26, 2001 - 4:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: First up this hour, at the White House today, why the Clinton administration is gone but surely not forgotten. You may have heard about the computer keys doused with fluids and stripped of the "W" keys. Well, we've also heard today some phone lines were cut and there are other reports of damage as well. Though the new guys are taking tallies of the mischief left behind, it is unlikely anything will be done about it.

Along with the stuff inside the White House, some souvenirs were apparently lifted from Air Force One during Mr. Clinton's final flight from Washington to New York on inauguration day. Some glasses and towels with the presidential seal on them went missing.

The man who broke the story about all of this is Lloyd Grove, who's "Reliable Sources" columnist with "The Washington Post." He joins us now from "The Washington Post" newsroom.

Lloyd, where did you first get reports of all this happening?

LLOYD GROVE, "WASHINGTON POST": From a Republican operative outside the White House, who had been talking to his friends in there. And he told me that the W keys had been pried off the computers. And I called the White House, and it took a while. People didn't really want to talk about it. But finally, I did got someone who was familiar with the situation.

CHEN: Why didn't they want to talk about it? I mean, you would think they would want to say something like this.

GROVE: Well, it's a bit of a distraction to governing. It's a new administration, and they want to really sweep Clinton and Clintonism out of there.

CHEN: When we talk about it, I mean, I have heard reports about graffiti being up, maybe signs changed, that sort of thing. What are we talking about here?

GROVE: We're talking about lewd graffiti. We're talking about wires cut. We're talking about overturned furniture. These are the reports.

Ari Fleischer, who's been taking a lot of questions about this in his briefing, has not confirmed any of them, and in fact, he's been very unhelpful to reporters trying to flesh out this story.

CHEN: Do they have any idea who did this, how senior the parties were who may have been involved with this sort of prank?

GROVE: If they do, they certainly aren't saying. Presumably these were junior, very junior-level staffers. I think some of the senior-level staffers from the Clinton administration, I heard a rumor that maybe even John Podesta, the chief of staff, had called over to express his concern and apologize.

CHEN: Have you heard about any other reaction from the Clinton folks, what they think about what happened in those final days? Do they regard this as something like a rite of passage?

GROVE: Well, I think the harmless pranks they regard as a rite of passage, and many of them point out that when they came in, in 1993, the Bush, the first Bush administration also pulled some pranks. Bumper stickers pasted on desks, laminated photos of President Bush, laminated to furniture, that kind of thing. But I should point out that while this is all going on in the West Wing, the transition in the first lady's office has been rather gracious.

Lisa Muskateen (ph), Hillary Clinton press secretary, left a flower arrangement for her predecessor, Nuelia Rodriguez (ph). And Malandra Beard (ph), the Hillary Clinton chief of staff, left a white cake with lemon frosting for everybody to enjoy there.

(LAUGHTER)

CHEN: Well, we hope the cake was a good one. Lloyd Grove with us from "The Washington Post" this afternoon. Thanks very much, Lloyd.

GROVE: My pleasure.

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