Published December 24, 2015
The House Homeland Security Committee voted Wednesday to subpoena the Virginia couple who crashed President Obama's first state dinner.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said at the hearing that he expects Tareq and Michaele Salahi to appear before the panel on Jan. 20 to testify on the security breach that resulted in the two gaining entry to the party at the White House.
The Salahis have refused to appear before the committee, saying they will exercise their Fifth Amendment rights if they are summoned to testify.
The wannabe reality TV stars said through their lawyer on Tuesday that the House committee has drawn premature conclusions about the Nov. 24 incident, during which they slipped into dinner even though they were not on the guest list.
In a letter Tuesday, lawyer Stephen Best gave examples of what he said were the committee's premature conclusions.
Best cited District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's characterization of the Salahis on Nov. 30 as "practiced con artists."
He also said that Thompson's chief oversight counsel told the Salahis' lawyers that if the couple did not testify at the Dec. 3 hearing, they would be viewed as modern-day versions of "Bonnie and Clyde."
"It is circumstances such as these for which the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution was designed to provide safe harbor," Best wrote.
The Secret Service is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the security breach.
In identical declarations dated Dec. 7, the Salahis said:
"I am aware of statements made by certain members on the Committee on Homeland Security in which premature conclusions concerning my criminal liability have been made. ... The current circumstances warrant invocation of my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination."
Thompson said the Salahis' response against testifying "was unequivocal."
"The grounds cited by the Salahis for their refusal to testify are irrelevant and have no bearing on the oversight activities of the House of Representatives," he said. "Therefore, it is my intention that this committee move forward with the issuance of subpoenas to secure their testimony. I expect that by Jan. 20, 2010, which is the date the subpoenas direct them to appear, we will know whether criminal charges will be issued."
King pressed for Rogers to testify before the committee, but the White House has said it does not make aides to the president available to testify -- raising concerns that the Obama administration's professed commitment to transparency may soon devolve into a battle over executive privilege.
"We ought to get the full picture," King told the committee on Wednesday. "This is not about her (Rogers) as an individual," he said, adding that her testimony is critical in probing how the Salahis made their way into the dinner and met President Obama on the receiving line.
Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said the White House is conducting its own internal investigation -- and that protocol for handling social events will change as a result, including requiring a White House staff member at the gates when invitees arrive.
Jarrett defended the decision not to make Rogers go to Capitol Hill by saying in an interview with ABC last week that "it is important to have a balance and have the White House staff able to have confidential conversations with the president and his team without appearing before Congress."
"There have been rare instances in the past for very, very important issues where that practice has deviated, but in this case we think we have had full and open disclosure," she said.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.