Salahis Invited, but Skip House Hearing

A House committee held a hearing Thursday to find out why two people who weren't invited were able to get into a state dinner at the White House. The Secret Service director testified that his agency was to blame. But, as CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports, the couple that started it all didn't show.

This time they had a formal invitation and even a reserved table with name cards.

But, today Michaele and Tareq Salahi snubbed Congress and refused to testify about their White House party-crashing escapade. That left the hot seat to Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.

"In our line of work we cannot afford even one mistake," Sullivan told the committee.

Sullivan said the Secret Service was solely responsible for the breach, and three uniformed officers have now been suspended.

"Clearly protocol was not followed," Sullivan said. "A mistake was made - an error in judgment."

Sullivan's candor, though, didn't stop his critics, who said the security failure presented a real danger. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee showed a picture of the Salahis with Vice President Joe Biden and called the threat to him and President Barack Obama "severe."

But the Secret Service chief disagreed, saying the Salahis were checked by metal detectors and other undisclosed measures.

"I feel confident based on what I've heard, based on what I've seen, what I've been briefed on, that they did not provide a risk to the president," he said.

Related:
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Read the Salahis' E-Mail Exchanges
Salahis' Polo Charity under Scrutiny
Bravo Takes Heat for Dinner Flap
Crashers Spur White House Security Change
Crashers: We Didn't Get Confirmed Invite

And, in an informal chat with reporters today the president gave his strong support to the Secret Service.

"I trust them 100 percent," he said, "not just with me but with my wife and my children."

Meanwhile the Salahis hunkered down in their Virginia home, leaving their agent to issue a statement saying they've cooperated with the Secret Service and Congressional investigators and adding "there is nothing further that they can do to assist Congress in its inquiry."

But, they were not the only no-shows at the hearing. Citing separation of powers, The White House blocked Social Secretary Desiree Rogers from testifying about her office's role in the security flap.

As White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs put it, "Staff here don't go to testify in front of Congress. She won't - she will not be testifying in front of Congress."

Past Administrations have used the same argument to block staff testimony in politically-charged and highly controversial cases like Whitewater under President Clinton and the U.S. attorneys firing controversy under President Bush.

But the use of the tactic in this party-crashing case brought an angry rebuke from Republican Peter King.

"They are stonewalling. And for our committee to work with the White House there has to be an element of trust," King said. "They have breached that trust."

While the White House is supporting Rogers, Congress is now threatening the Salahis with subpoenas - assuring that their 15 minutes of fame will be extended.