Jan. 20, 2010 -- Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the infamous White House party crashers, took the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination today, refusing to answer questions from a House committee about how they slipped through Secret Service checkpoints to attend the Nov. 24 White House state dinner.
The couple remained silent in response to a barrage of questions from members of the Homeland Security Committee, with Tareq Salahi pleading the Fifth more than 25 times, and Michaele Salahi invoking it at least five times.
A federal grand jury is investigating the Salahis to learn how they got past the Secret Service without invitations and shook hands with President Obama. The White House incident led to an apology from the U.S. Secret Service, and three Secret Service officers were placed on administrative leave.
In addition to their attendance at the dinner, the couple also declined to answer questions about a recent party in Las Vegas or the Bravo reality TV show they aspired to be part of, "The Real Housewives of D.C."
In his opening statement,Tareq Salahi offered to have the couple's lawyers provide information about their appearance at the dinner for the prime minister of India. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., rejected the offer.
Tareq Salahi continued, saying, "My wife and I are strong supporters of men and women in uniform both here and abroad. We have great respect for the presidency, the men and women of the United States Secret Service. … They have a tradition of excellence in their missions. And nothing that transpired Nov. 24 should take away from the extraordinary services the United States Secret Service performs on a daily basis."
Several representatives took offense at the statement.
"You have your right to claim protection under the Constitution of the United States, but you have shown affront here, to take the name of men and women in uniform, who are protecting this nation, and suggest that somehow what you do provides support for them," said Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif.
"I was going to sit here and remain silent, until I heard that last paragraph of your statement," Lungren continued. "But to suggest that somehow what you are doing shows support for our men and women is an abomination."
Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., called today's procedure a "charade."
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said he was originally ambivalent about the hearing and subpoenaing the Salahis, but said their "ill-advised" appeal compelled him to speak, adding that the time for the hearing would have been better devoted to talking about important national issues, such as unemployment.
'The Constitution Protects Fools'
The Salahis have insisted that they were invited to the Nov. 24 state dinner, and in December they warned through their lawyer that they would exercise their Fifth Amendment right and refuse to answer questions, and that the House Homeland Security Committee should not summon them.
Stephen Best, the couple's lawyer, said in an interview Tuesday that a grand jury is still hearing witnesses.
The couple could be charged under statutes that prohibit making false statements to federal agencies or using false pretenses to enter federal property.
Lungren said today that he respected the right of the couple to take the Fifth, because he respects the Constitution. "The Constitution protects fools," he said. "The Constitution protects stupidity. The Constitution protects errant thought. Thank God it does."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.