White House closes gate crashing case



White House closes gate crashing case Washington: The White House has officially closed the case related to the Salahis – the Virginia couple – who gate crashed into the first State Dinner of the Obama presidency hosted in honour of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a media report said on Monday.

"Case closed. That's the verdict the White House has emphatically handed down on the embarrassing and troubling security breach a fame-craving Virginia couple performed during the Obama administration's first State Dinner on November 24," The Washington Post reported.

However, the Post said that eyewitness accounts, a Secret Service criminal investigation, Congressional hearings and an Obama administration internal review depict a far more complicated set of circumstances.

Salahis have been subpoenaed by a Congressional Committee forcing them to appear before it on January 20 to explain before it the circumstances in which the couple entered the White House without an invitation.

"A month later, Tareq and Michaele Salahi's perplexing White House visit has revealed personnel failings and damage control manoeuvring in the administration, institutional vulnerabilities in the security agency, and the perils of celebrity culture and political gamesmanship in Washington," The Post wrote, saying that the entire episode leaves several questions unanswered for the White House.

The lengthy article – the second part of which would appear tomorrow – gives a detailed account of how desperate the Salahis were to get an invite for the event; and then went on a Lincoln Navigator SUV to a salon for the makeup and saree fitting session of Michaele Salahi that lasted six hours and cost the couple USD 230.42.

"I'm just so blessed," she said when Erwin Gomez at the salon asked her how she managed to get the invite.

According to the driver, who drove the Salahis in that SUV that day, the couple pretended that they had forgot the invitation at the home, the Post said.

"My sense was that they had an invitation and left it at home," driver Mitchell was quoted as saying.

"They felt they were on a guest list and just needed their two forms of ID to prove who they were," he said.

And, all this while they were also followed by an entourage of television camera shooting for Bravo Reality Show. As the limo pulled up to the pedestrian gate of the White House, a plainclothes Secret Service officer asked Mitchell for his name.

"I'm not on the list but my guest in the car should be," Mitchell recalled telling the officer.

s He then announced the Salahis as his passengers. As directed by the Secret Service officer, the Salahis and the crew got out of the car.

"After some last-minute sartorial and cosmetic touch- ups, the couple walked toward the entrance and the camera crew departed in a van that had been following the limo," the daily said.

Then the Salahis proceeded towards the pedestrian checkpoint, where one of two officers – a female -- asked for their IDs. Tareq silently presented their passport.

"The Salahis' stunt spotlighted longstanding tensions between the Secret Service's plainclothes agents and uniformed officers, a management challenge that some agency insiders say may have played a role in the lapse," the daily said.

The female officers along with two others have been put on administrative leave.

The couple then walked with other guests to the second checkpoint about 50 yards away, at the foot of the White House steps, where, according to committee staffers, two male officers checked the guests in, the daily said.

According to the Salahi statement, Tareq "again presented both our passports. The agent examined them, said 'thank you,' and reviewed paperwork that was on a clipboard. He also appeared to make a checkmark," it said. And then finally, the Salahis passed through the last checkpoint.

"According to one guest in line, the couple struck up a conversation with CBS News anchor Katie Couric and boyfriend Brooks Perlin. Just small talk, according to the guest, but several members of the committee said they considered the chat a tactic to ease the Salahis' way through the last filter. The eyewitness in line said no one at that last screening checked the Salahis' names against a list," it said.

Once inside the White House, the Salahis name were announced to the photographer and the awaiting media and then they walked towards the receiving line of the President and the Prime Minister.

"In the Blue Room, a tuxedoed official standing next to the president asked for their official name card, at which point Tareq presented an America Polo's Cup business card, according to Best. The official introduced the couple to Obama, and they shook the president's hand," the paper said.

Then they walked downstairs and mingled with rest of the invited guests. At around 9 p.m. Michael told the staffers that she had to go as somebody was ill at home and needed a medical emergency. The couple then walked out and went to a nearby hotel for drinks.

At 9:08 p.m., a message -- "Honored to be at the White House for the state dinner in honour of India with President Obama and our First Lady!" -- popped up on their joint Facebook account, the paper said.

"They were excited," Mitchell, the driver, was quoted as saying. "They just had a great night at the White House."

Once back home, the couple uploaded 12 photos of the State Dinner in the wee hours and at "7:57 a.m., Tareq responded to a Washington Post reporter's message sent via Facebook asking how he got in.

"It was last-minute attending," he wrote. The White House conceded at 1:12 p.m. that the couple had not been invited, the daily said.

PTI