December 9, 2009 / 11:28 PM / 10 years ago

Lawmakers want to question White House gate crashers

President Barack Obama (2nd L) greets Michaele Salahi (C) and her husband Tareq (R) during a state dinner for India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) at the White House in this official White House photo taken November 24, 2009 and released November 27, 2009. REUTERS/Samantha Appleton-The White House/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressional panel voted on Wednesday to subpoena a married couple who slipped into a White House dinner, making them the world’s most famous gate crashers and raising questions about security.

The subpoenas direct Tareq Salahi and his wife, Michaele Salahi, to appear on January 20 before the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee.

On back-to-back votes of 26-3 and 27-2, the committee authorized the subpoenas of the two in response to the Virginia couple’s refusal to come before the panel voluntarily last week.

There was no immediate comment from the couple’s attorney, Steve Best. But congressional aides said based on an earlier correspondence, they expect them to invoke their right to refuse to answer questions on the grounds they might incriminate themselves.

In an apparent publicity stunt, the couple got into the November 24 state dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Their attendance, which included posing for pictures with President Barack Obama and other dignitaries, has made them the focus of federal probes and raised questions about White House security.

The Secret Service said its own inquiry determined that its agents failed to verify that the couple was on a list of approved guests before letting them into the White House for Obama’s first state dinner.

The couple contended in a recent television appearance that they were invited guests, a claim that the White House has denied.

The Democratic-led Homeland Security Committee rejected a Republican bid to also authorize a subpoena of White House social security Desiree Rogers. She, too, declined to appear before the committee last week.

Editing by Xavier Briand

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