White House gatecrashers to stay mum at panel hearing

White House gatecrashers to stay mum at panel hearing

Michaele and Tareq Salahi would invoke their Fifth Amendment rights if they are forced to appear before Congress, their lawyer said Tuesday ahead of a vote Wednesday in the House Homeland Security Committee about whether or not to subpoena the couple.

The Fifth Amendment affords Americans the right not to testify as a witness against themselves.
Last week, the head of the Secret Service accepted blame for the security breakdown and said three officers had been placed on leave in testimony before the committee.

The couple's Washington-based lawyer, Stephen Best, of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, sent a letter Tuesday to the leadership of the committee that included signed declarations from the couple that they will decline to answer questions.
The letter accuses members of Congress of coming to premature conclusions about the couple. It cites as one piece of evidence, District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's characterisation of the couple as "practiced con artists who bamboozled the Secret Service" and "outlaws".

The letter also notes that Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee called the pair "the perpetrators".

"The Salahis must contend not only with vilification by the press, but also with a treacherous legal environment that threatens criminal exposure," the letter says.
"I am aware of statements made by certain members on the Committee on Homeland Security in which premature conclusions concerning my criminal liability have been made," both Salahis declare in the letter, which asserts that the pair have "fully cooperated" with the Secret Service.
"...The current circumstances warrant invocation of my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination."

Peter King, top Republican on the panel, said he isn't surprised the Salahis won't answer his panel's questions.
"Their story is very shaky and hard to believe", and testifying may do further damage to their version of events, he said.
King said he would press forward in his effort to subpoena White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers.

Getting a majority of the panel to back him won't be easy, he said. A number of Democrats "are saying they would like to be with us, but that it would be difficult" to oppose the administration, which barred Rogers from appearing at a hearing last week, King said.