Gates staffer communicated with crashers
WASHINGTON -- The couple who crashed the Obama administration's first state dinner communicated with a senior Pentagon official about going to the event, but the official denies that she helped the couple get in.
Michele Jones, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said in a written statement issued through the White House on Monday evening that she never said or implied she would get Michaele and Tareq Salahi into the Nov. 24 White House dinner.
"I specifically stated that they did not have tickets and in fact that I did not have the authority to authorize attendance, admittance or access to any part of the evening's activities," Jones said. "Even though I informed them of this, they still decided to come."
This is the latest twist in the unfolding mystery of how the two reality show wannabes managed to get into the highly secured event and shake hands with President Obama. Also yesterday, a House committee chairman asked the couple and Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to testify at a hearing Thursday on the incident.
A friend of the couple told The Washington Post that the Salahis interpreted their e-mail exchange with Jones as permission to attend the exclusive party.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he wants answers about the Secret Service's security deficiencies that allowed the Salahis to attend the dinner.
"This is a time for answers," Thompson said in a statement yesterday. "This is not the time for political games or scapegoating to distract our attention from the careful oversight we must apply to the Secret Service and its mission."
Some lawmakers have called for criminal charges to be brought against the couple, but the Secret Service has not yet decided whether to refer the case for criminal prosecution.