House Republicans ask Desiree Rogers to join party-crasher hearing
Updated 12:17 a.m.
By Ed O'Keefe and Scott Butterworth
Republican members of the House Homeland Security committee have invited White House social secretary Desirée Rogers to testify Thursday, a committee aide said Monday night, about how a couple from Northern Virginia slipped into the White House last week for a state dinner, despite not being on the guest list.
Rogers acknowledged to the Associated Press last week that no one from her office was at a security checkpoint Nov. 24 to assist Secret Service agents in determining whether partygoers should be admitted to the mansion. Tareq and Michaele Salahi were waved through the checkpoint and later came face-to-face with President Obama in a receiving line.
Democrats on the House committee announced Monday that they would convene a hearing on the matter, and invited the Salahis and Secret Service director Mark J. Sullivan to testify. Republicans later asked Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) to add Rogers to the witness list, the aide said.
Rogers was responsible for not only the guest list but the party itself. Bloggers have noted that she spent the evening not working behind the scenes but attending as a guest, wearing a high-fashion dress that drew considerable attention.
Newsweek reported Sunday the account of the White House staff member who, until this February, typically had stood at the security checkpoint to clear invitees. Cathy Hargraves said she was essentially demoted by Rogers, telling her, "We don't feel we have a need for that anymore." Hargraves quit four months later.
If she had been on the job last Tuesday night, Hargraves told the newsweekly, the Salahis "would not have made it past the East Gate portico."
Asked about this at Monday's press briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pointed a finger at the Secret Service. "I assume, in absence of somebody being there, because there are working telephones in the White House, somebody would have checked. ... If somebody was confused about whether or not somebody was on a list at a guard tower on the exterior perimeter of the White House and there was a question, generally, somebody could pick up the phone and ask."
He also said that the Secret Service's review of the incident would not include the White House Social Office, which Rogers oversees. "My understanding is that the Secret Service will look at what the Secret Service did," he said.
The White House declined to comment Monday night on the House committee's invitation of Rogers.
November 30, 2009; 10:49 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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