The top Republican on the House panel investigating the Nov. 24 White House security breach has renewed calls for White House social secretary Desiree Rogers to answer questions about her role in the incident.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., sent a three-page letter to Rogers Thursday seeking answers on 15 questions he deems "essential" for a full understanding of how Tareq and Michaele Salahi managed to masquerade on White House grounds without an invitation.
King's interest in Rogers' testimony has centered on the administration's decision to break from precedent and not to have a staff member assist Secret Service agents checking-in guests at entry points.
The White House has cited separation of powers in refusing to allow Rogers to testify.
"If we are to get the full picture of that evening, we have to know why the decision was made. What prompted the social secretary's office, after so many years, not to have people there that night," King said at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday.
"We are not looking for constitutional confrontation. If the White House would reach out and try to find some sort of compromise, we would certainly be amenable to considering that." King admitted attempts to reach such a compromise have so far been futile.
King's attempt to subpoena Rogers failed in a party-line vote Wednesday after Democrats argued Rogers' role at White House events is outside the committee's purview.
Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has said the Secret Service alone bears responsibility for White House security.
The committee overwhelmingly passed separate resolutions compelling the embattled White House "crashers" to testify Jan. 20, 2010, to explain why and how they managed to attend the Nov. 24 state dinner without an official invitation.
"We respectfully request that the Committee on Homeland Security accept the Salahis' declarations in lieu of summoning them to appear at a public hearing or any other setting," the letter reads. "Requiring the Salahis to personally appear for the sole purpose of invoking their Fifth Amendment privilege will result in an unnecessary media spectacle from which no facts relevant to the committee's inquiry will be determined," their lawyer wrote.
Thompson sharply responded to the Salahis' letter, saying, "the grounds cited by the Salahis for their refusal to testify are irrelevant and have no bearing on the oversight activities of the House of Representatives."
Thompson said that by Jan. 20, the Salahis, who have insisted they were invited to the White House, will know whether criminal charges have been filed, suggesting their justification for pleading the Fifth may then be tenuous.
However, if the Salahis do plead the Fifth, Thompson told ABC News last week, there isn't much else the committee can do.
"This is America and self-incrimination is left up to the individual," he said. "If they choose that, so be it. But we would have discharged our responsibility as members of the Homeland Security Committee to get as much of the facts around the situation as possible."