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Obama White House holiday parties start this week; State Dinner crashers probe continues

WASHINGTON — The White House confirmed Friday that President Obama met the couple who crashed Tuesday’s state dinner –wannabe reality-show stars Michaele and Tareq Salahi — releasing a picture of Michaele Salahi shaking hands with the president in a receiving line that included first lady Michelle Obama, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur.

The official White House photo, which included Tareq Salahi, was posted on the White House Flickr page Friday afternoon, shortly after the Secret Service issued a statement taking full blame for the security breach — not pointing any fingers at the social office operation run by Chicago’s Desiree Rogers. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said the agency was “deeply concerned and embarrassed.”

However, with the Obama White House planning a series of holiday parties during December — with guest lists running to the thousands, all told, not just the 330 at the Obamas’ first state dinner — the issue of whether other crashers can replicate the success of the Salahis is very relevant. The first of a string of parties starts this week.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said in a statement, “The White House asked the United States Secret Service to do a full review, and they are doing that.” The Secret Service “said they made a mistake and they are taking action to identify exactly what happened and they will take the appropriate measures pending the results of their investigation.”

Sullivan also said a preliminary internal investigation determined that protocols were not followed and the couple should have been stopped when they were outside the East Wing and Secret Service personnel could not find their name on the guest list. “That failing is ours,” Sullivan said. The couple did pass through magnetometers.

Jim Mackin, the Secret Service deputy assistant director for public affairs, told me Friday everyone associated with the situation is or will be interviewed — including the Salahis. As for facing criminal charges, Mackin told me, “We are simply not going to rule anything out at this time.”

The Salahis bragged about crashing the party on their Facebook page, posting a dozen photos of them posing with other guests, including Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and CBS news anchor Katie Couric.

NBC News was reporting Friday that Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) was calling for a congressional investigation. AP reported that Tuesday, Michaele Salahi “was being filmed around Washington” by a crew from a reality show.