Secret Service Apologizes For Party Crashers
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The Secret Service issued an apology today for allowing two uninvited guests to crash the state dinner at the White House on Tuesday. Director Mark Sullivan said the Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed and that established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint. That failing, he said, is ours.
Roxanne Roberts is covering the story for The Washington Post. And Roxanne, turns out that the couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi from Virginia, they didn't just get through the checkpoint, they actually got to the receiving line and met the president and the first lady.
Ms. ROXANNE ROBERTS (Reporter, The Washington Post): Yes, this is the shocker. It was shocking enough that they managed to get into the White House without being invited. But we suspected this - the White House confirmed it this afternoon that they, in fact, managed to bluff their way into the house, into the cocktail party and through the receiving line with the president, the first lady and the Indian prime minister.
BLOCK: And what about the dinner itself?
Ms. ROBERTS: They managed to get, I have to say, they were very, very good at this. After they went through the receiving line they went downstairs and into this gorgeous tent that was erected on the South Lawn. They mingled with guests. That's where they were photographed with Vice President Biden and Rahm Emanuel. We think that's where they stopped because they were not seated at the dinner. And they slipped out before guests sat down and were undetected.
BLOCK: Now, The Washington Post is reporting that Secret Service agents visited the couple's winery today looking for them. What happened there?
Ms. ROBERTS: Not much. They talked to a lot of people. They want to sit down with this couple and ask them exactly what happened. They couldn't find them. They talked to various employees. There was a lot of excitement in rural Virginia. But they never found them.
BLOCK: Could the Salahi's be facing criminal charges here, Roxanne?
Ms. ROBERTS: According to prior administration officials, lying to a Secret Service agent or anyone else on the White House staff would constitute a felony and they could be subject to criminal penalties. I know the Secret Service says they are in the middle of this investigation, and they're not ruling anything out yet.
BLOCK: And what does the lawyer for the couple have to say?
Ms. ROBERTS: He's just saying no, no, no, no, no a lot. The couple is saying that they were clear to come into the White House. Now, they were technically cleared, obviously. They managed to get in, but that doesn't mean they were invited on the guest list or seated for the dinner, all of which the White House says emphatically they were not.
BLOCK: Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post, thanks very much.
Ms. ROBERTS: Thanks a lot. Bye bye.
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