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Couple Accused of Crashing White House Party Remain Silent

Tareq (L) and Michaele Salahi appear before the House Committee on Homeland Security, 20 Jan 2010

The couple accused of attending a White House state dinner last November without an official invitation appeared Wednesday before the House Committee on Homeland Security. But Tareq and Michaele Salahi declined to answer any of the questions posed by lawmakers about how they got past security to attend the function.

The United States Secret Service says this couple was not invited to the White House, but somehow, Tareq and Michaele Salahi got through security and attended the state dinner for the Prime Minister of India. They even met President Barack Obama.

Lawmakers on the House Homeland Land Security Committee wanted to know how they did it but received no answers.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE: "Your names were not on the guest list and your request for an invitation from Michell Jones was denied and rebuffed. Can you tell me what more did you need in order to understand that you were not invited."

TAREQ SALAHI: "On advice of counsel, I respectfully assert my right to remain silent and decline to answer your question."

Representative Laura Richardson of California tried again.

REP. LAURA RICHARDSON: "Have you ever attended an event at the White House?"

MICHAELE SALAHI: "On advice of counsel, I respectfully assert my right to remain silent and decline to answer your question."

While the Salahis refused to answer any questions, Tareq Salahi did say this in his opening statement.

"We have great respect for the presidency, the men and women of the United States Secret Service," he said.

The comment angered several committee members, notably Representative Dan Lungren.

"To suggest that somehow what you're doing shows support for our men and women is an abomination," said Lungren.

The Salahis did not appear when first asked to testify on Capitol Hill in December.

They appeared at this hearing under supoena, ordering them to show up or face punishment.

Tareq Salahi said he has tried to cooperate.

"We're ready to tell you all the details, but through only our counsel," he said. "But if you want to know the details, they're ready to tell you."

But Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and others say hearing from the Salahi's lawyers is not good enough.

"These lawyers were not at the state dinner and had no firsthand knowledge of the facts," he noted.

The Salahis may be silent now, but shortly after the White House event last November, they appeared on television with their side of the story.

Not everyone is blaming the Salahis for crashing the White House party. Some opposition Republican Party members of Congress expressed their frustration that White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers has declined to testify about the lapse in security.

"Obviously, something went wrong and it originated with the White House not with the Secret Service, and not with the Salahis," he said Representative Peter King of New York.

Federal investigators are looking into whether the Salahis broke any laws by attending the state dinner. Michaele Salahi told lawmakers she will tell them how they entered the White House at the end of the criminal investigation.