Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

White House 'gatecrashers' refuse to testify

White House party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi declined an invitation to testify to the US Congress about their caper at President Barack Obama's state dinner last week, prompting a quick threat from a politician that they will be forced by subpoena to face questions if they don't show up today.

But their publicist, Mahogany Jones, said in a statement on the eve of the hearing that the couple had already provided information to two politicians as well as the US Secret Service and would not come.

The Salahis believe "there is nothing further that they can do to assist Congress in its inquiry regarding White House protocol and certain security procedures," the statement said. "They therefore respectfully decline to testify."

That didn't sit well with Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, which is holding the hearing.

"The Salahis' testimony is important to explain how a couple circumvented layers of security at the White House on the evening of a state dinner without causing alarm," he said in a late-evening statement.

The committee "must understand the full scope of what went so terribly wrong on Tuesday night (November 24) to ensure that security gaps are sealed. This can only be achieved by hearing both sides of the matter".

He said yesterday: "If the Salahis are absent from tomorrow's hearing, the committee is prepared to move forward with subpoenas to compel their appearance."

In addition, the White House is refusing to send its social secretary to the hearing, citing the separation of powers and a tradition of not having White House staff testify to Congress.

Secret Service director Mark Sullivan agreed to testify.

The couple said on TV they were invited to the dinner. But emails between the Salahis and a friend who works at the Pentagon show they were not invited to the exclusive party.

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