The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has ordered his staff to subpoena White House party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi after the Virginia couple declined the invitation to testify at a hearing Thursday.
Without its star witnesses, the hearing focused on Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, who told the panel that three people who were responsible for letting the Salahis into last week’s state dinner have been put on administrative leave until the investigation is completed.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, had threatened a subpoena if the Salahis did not show. He said at Thursday’s hearing that the Salahis will be subject to contempt of Congress charges if they do not obey his subpoena to appear before the panel next week.
If found in contempt, the Salahis could receive a year in jail and $1,000 fine. Though the committee itself has subpoena power, conviction on contempt charges would require a vote by the full House.
White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers also declined to appear before the panel, though Mr. Thompson rejected a request by Rep. Peter T. King of New York, the panel’s ranking Republican, to subpoena Ms. Rogers.
Mr. Sullivan also surprised the panel by telling members that his agency did not learn of the security breach until the Virginia couple bragged about it on the Internet.
He told the panel that the federal security agency did not become aware of the breach by the Salahis until the next day, when it saw the couple’s photos from the event, including posing with the president, posted on their public Facebook account.
“These con artists are so hungry for publicity, they exposed and revealed” security flaws, said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat.
“What I see is this couple has pioneered a new way to breach security. Be a poser — that will get you in quicker,” Mrs. Norton said.
Mr. Sullivan said that at no time was President Obama in any danger from the couple, who were being filmed before the event and may be featured in an upcoming Bravo reality show, “The Real Housewives.”
Leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee have signaled they are willing to subpoena the couple and at least one White House official, but did not move forward with an official vote Thursday morning.
The nonappearance of Ms. Rogers also was asked to appear but declined, so Democrats and Republicans focused on Mr. Sullivan to answer why none of her representatives were posted at the security gates at the event featuring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Mr. King said it was customary in the previous two administrations to have White House staff greet visitors near the Secret Service gate at major events and make sure they were on the invitation list.
Mr. Sullivan said it was a joint decision not to have staff from the social secretary’s office, but could not answer if it was at the Secret Service or White House’s recommendation.
The White House on Wednesday said staff will be posted along with security agents at future public events.