E-Mails Show Salahis Never Got White House State Dinner Invite From Pentagon

Couple had claimed Pentagon official told them they could attend the event.

December 1, 2009, 9:20 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2009— -- E-mails between the so-called state dinner crashers and a Pentagon official indicate the official was trying to get them in to the White House event, but did not succeed, according to the email chain obtained by ABC News.

Read the full text of the Salahi e-mails HERE.

In the emails, Pentagon official Michele S. Jones told Tareq and Michaele Salahi that she was trying to get them access to the White House grounds, but never said she had received approval, contradicting the couple's claim today that they had emails proving they had been invited to the Nov. 24 gala.

In the last email from Jones, sent at 8:46 a.m., Nov. 24, she said she still had not gotten them tickets.

"The arrival ceremony (was scheduled to be outdoors) was canceled due to inclement weather," Jones' email said. "They are having a very small one inside the WH, very limited space. I am still working on tickets for tonight's dinner. I will call or e-mail as soon as I get word one way or another."

In an email sent at 1:03 a.m., Nov. 25, the Salahis wrote that they did not get a cell phone message from Jones because "my cell phone battery died early this evening while we were in D.C. from our country home."

"We ended up going to the gate to check in at 6:30 p.m. to just check, in case it got approved, since we didn't know, and our name was indeed on the list!" they wrote. "We are very grateful, and God bless you. We just got home, and we had a very wonderful evening as you can imagine!"

Appearing on NBC's "Today," the couple said they had been invited and were confident they could prove it.

"I can tell you, we did not party-crash the White House," Tareq Salahi said. "We're going to show you documentation from e-mails that you'll get a chance to see. ... I am certain we're going to be completely exonerated."

The emails support what White House officials said today, when they reiterated to ABC News that the Salahis were not invited, and back up Jones, special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, who flatly denied the Salahis' claim.

"I did not state at any time, or imply that I had tickets for ANY portion of the evening's events," Jones said earlier in a statement. "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. Even though I informed them of this, they still decided to come."

Before ABC News obtained the emails, sources familiar with them emphasized that there is no record that anyone at the White House authorized the Salahis to come.

"What concerns me the most is that someone was able to walk in off the street to a White House event, without the proper credentials, without the proper vetting, and get next to the president," said Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson said he's hoping to clear up the story in a hearing he's called for Thursday. The head of the secret service and the Salahis have been called to testify.

The Salahis said their lives have been "devastated" by news headlines characterizing them as disingenuous.

"Our lives have been destroyed," said Michaele Salahi. "We were invited -- not crashers -- there isn't anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that. The White House is THE house and no one would do that, and certainly not us."

The couple said they were not paid by NBC for the interview.

The Salahis' first television interview since the incident came as new details emerged about the couple's past and their interaction with administration officials in the days leading up to the state dinner.

Salahis Deny Record of 'Party Crashing'

ABC News has learned that the couple also apparently crashed a Sept. 26 dinner for the Congressional Black Caucus and were asked to leave.

Pictures from the dinner show Tareq and Michaele Salahi socializing with prominent figures, including Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., and television personality Starr Jones.

CBC Foundation spokeswoman Muriel Cooper told ABC News the Salahis were caught sitting out of place during the dinner.

"The Salahis were sitting in our gold section without a ticket to that specific table. We had security escort them out," Cooper said. "We are currently checking to see if they actually had a ticket. Many times businesses and corporations buy tables and distribute the tickets to their guests, but we are unsure if that was the case in this situation."

During their television interview Tuesday, Tareq Salahi denied that he and his wife crashed the CBC dinner, saying they were invited guests of the Gardner Law Group.

"Were we escorted out? Of course not," he said. "That's another gossip rumor, just, unfortunately, how this story got started, through a gossip column."

But Cooper told ABC News that the CBC Foundation does not have the Gardner Law Group, mentioned by the Salahis, listed as buying tickets to the Sept. 26 gala.

Tareq Salahi's brother, Dr. Ismail Salahi, said he isn't surprised by the allegations and that the couple has a history of bold behavior to attract attention.

"I was shocked, but I definitely don't put it past him and his wife to do something like this," Ismail Salahi said. He said the White House dinner crash is just the latest in a pattern for his badly-behaving brother and his wife.

"Anybody who digs a little bit on them will find they love media attention. They love the press," he said.

On CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday night, the couple's friends came to their defense.

"[Michaele] did say she was officially invited to the state dinner. However, I never saw the invitation," friend Theresa Foss-Conlan told King. "I know that she had correspondence with the social secretary about the attire…she had her on some type of list."

Now, White House social secretary Desiree Rogers is facing scrutiny of her own.

Critics say Rogers broke protocol, failing to station staff members at the gate, checking guest lists alongside the Secret Service -- a practice that has been standard for years.

"You always saw the social secretary right when you came in -- she's the first person you saw after security," Carol Joynt, Washington columnist for the New York Social Diary, told ABC News.

This morning, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs weighed in on the situation, telling "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer that White House security procedures are being reviewed.

Gibbs Says Security Review Underway

"We will do everything in our power to make sure that going forward, whether it's procedures here at the White House or Secret Service, that we adequately address any shortcomings that are identified, and ensure the safety and security, not just of the president but anyone who comes here to the White House," said Gibbs.

As for the president, Gibbs said he was very concerned about what happened but has confidence in the Secret Service.

"All involved want to figure out what happened and what we can do to ensure something like this doesn't happen again," Gibbs said.

The Secret Service is taking full responsibility for the security breach saying the agency is "embarrassed" and "deeply concerned."

ABC News' David Chalian contributed to this report.

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