White House dismisses subpoena threat for gatecrasher hearing

The White House indicated it will fight any congressional attempts to subpoena an administration official to testify about the security breach at last week’s state dinner.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, threatened to subpoena White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers to discuss how Tareq and Michaele Salahi got into the event.

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pointed out White House officials only testify before Congress on rare occasions like Watergate, the Sept. 11 attacks and Whitewater.

He said King would not have the "audacity" to make the case that two uninvited people sneaking into a state dinner is on the same footing as those subjects.

"I don't think even Peter King would have the audacity to include the Salahis in the trifecta of Watergate, 9/11 or some of the financial dealings," Gibbs said.

Rogers declined to testify at Thursday’s Homeland Security Committee hearing on the security breach.

King accused the administration of being less than forthcoming in discussing Rogers’s role at the dinner.

At the start of Thursday’s hearing, King lambasted the White House for not providing Rogers’s testimony.

He once again issued a subpoena threat and said the White House was not being cooperative with Congress in examining the incident.

"I think it's wrong," King said. "In this instance, they are stonewalling."

Gibbs said there is a long history of White House advisers being free to provide unfettered, confidential advice to presidents without fear of subpoena.

Rogers became subject to criticism after it was revealed no staff member from the White House social office was present at the East Gate portico entrance when the Salahis and other guests arrived.

"Who made the decision? Why was the decision made to have no one from the White House Social Office there?" King said at the hearing.

Like Rogers, the Salahis also declined to testify at Thursday’s hearing but Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) would not rule out subpoenaing the couple.


"If the Salahis are absent from tomorrow’s hearing, the Committee is prepared to move forward with subpoenas to compel their appearance," Thompson said in a statement.

Mark Sullivan, the director of the U.S. Secret Service, took full responibilty for the breach, blaming it on human error. He said the agents responsible for letting the Salahis enter the White House complex the night of the state dinner was put on adminstrative leave and is under pending review.

On Wednesday, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina issued a memo that said at future events, aides from the Social Office will be at the gates. King said it was the policy of both the Clinton and Bush administrations to have Social Office aides at the gates and wondered why the policy should be changed.

"Security is a shared responsibility between the Secret Service and the White House Social Office," King said. "This reverses the policies of two administrations."

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told ABC’s “Good Morning America” the administration is conducting its own internal investigation.

Jarrett defended Rogers.

"We think it’s 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," Jarrett said in Thursday's ABC interview. "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."

This story was updated at 12:20 p.m.


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