- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UPDATED:

The so-called White House “party crashers” on Wednesday complied with a subpoena to appear before the House Committee on Homeland Security but declined to answer questions about how they gained entrance to the state dinner.

“On advice of counsel, I respectfully assert my right to remain silent and decline to answer your questions,” said Tareq Salahi, who took most of the questions as his wife, Michaele, remained silent.

Most members of the 24-person committee repeatedly said they respected the Salahis’ constitutional rights to decline to testify but angrily called their actions detestable and un-American.

“I don’t respect your rights at all,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., New Jersey Democrat. “This episode is a stunt to gain notoriety that apparently you so desperately seek… . It is my hope you be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Members also said such hearings will be pointless as long as the Salahis decline to talk and the White House refuses to send Social Secretary Desiree Rogers to testify.

Mr. Salahi and his blond wife — wearing pearls and dressed in winter white — did not show up at a Dec. 3 hearing on Capitol Hill.

Mrs. Salahi also declined to answer questions.

They couple said they have submitted e-mails and other documents to help the committee in its investigation into possible security lapses at the Nov. 24 event and that their attorney will meet with members behind closed doors.

Among the questions the couples refused to answer were whether their attendance — allegedly without an official invitation — was part of a plan to get on reality TV, if they proffered identification and if Secret Service agents questioned them at checkpoints.

“So long as the Salahis refuse to be helpful, so long as the White House continues to stonewall, we are not going to get our job done,” said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, who is the committee’s ranking minority member. “This White House has brought down an iron curtain.”

Member Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican, said he was not going to talk until he heard Mr. Salahi say he would not answer questions, which Mr. Lungren thinks might better protect Americans, then praise the Secret Service and members of the U.S. military.

“I was going to say silent until I heard that last sentence,” he said. “They put their lives on the line every single day.”

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