WASHINGTON –White House social secretary Desiree Rogers has been asked to testify at a Thursday hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee about how wannabe reality TV stars Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed the Obama’s first state dinner last week.
The hearing is titled “The United States Secret Service and Presidential Protection: Examination of a System Failure.” Committee chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) sent Rogers a letter on Monday inviting her to testify, acting on a request by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the committee.
King told me Monday that he wanted to know why Rogers — the former Chicago business executive who is close to President Obama and First Lady Michelle — did not assign staffers to trouble shoot the guest lines. I asked him what he wanted to ask Rogers. He said: “Why they decided not to have someone there; did they check with the Secret Service?”
The security breach comes as string of holiday parties at the White House kick off this week — a Thursday party includes President Obama’s friends from Illinois — bringing thousands of guests through the White House.
“This is not adversarial type hearing,” King told me. “I think she is a very appropriate witness.”
The White House declined to comment on whether Rogers would appear at the hearing; the invitation to testify does not force her to show up.
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan has been asked to testify and either he or a deputy will appear. Thompson also wants the Salahis as witnesses and it is not known if they will testify. They may face criminal charges. After backing out of a Monday night appearance on CNN’s “Larry King,” they are scheduled to appear this morning on NBC’s “Today Show.”
Last Friday, the Secret Service took the blame for letting the Salahis slip through several White House checkpoints even though their names were not on the guest list. In previous administrations, the Social Office had staffers at the gate to deal with guests whose names might not appear on the list — because the lists sometimes omit legitimate guests.
The Secret Service said the Salahis should have been turned away at the first checkpoint and took Rogers office off the hook because the Secret Service did not even bother to call her staff once they realized the Salahis names were not on the guest list.
“There was no call made to the Social Office. We did not call the Social Office to check the list,” Special Agent Darrin Blackford, a Secret Service spokesman, told me.