King tussles with White House over gate-crashersBy Tom Brune
December 4, 2009
WASHINGTON - Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) continued his war of words with the White House Thursday, blaming a top aide for last week's state dinner gate-crashing and calling her refusal to testify at a House hearing "stonewalling."
King traded barbs with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and insisted that the House Homeland Security Committee, of which King is a ranking member, subpoena White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers - a demand that committee Democrats blocked.
King pressed his case even though Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told the committee Thursday President Barack Obama's safety was never in jeopardy and he accepted full responsibility for the security breach, adding he has placed the agents responsible for the breach on administrative leave.
The hearing was to feature the celebrity-seeking couple Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who with e-mails and passports in hand talked their way past a security checkpoint without being on the dinner invitation list. But the Salahis, now under criminal investigation, and Rogers declined invitations to appear at the hearing.
In their absence, the committee focused on a change in protocol for the Nov. 24 state dinner. Sullivan said Secret Service and White House aides agreed at a dinner planning meeting that no White House staffer would be at the gate. On Wednesday, a White House memo said that from now on an aide would be there.
Gibbs defended the refusal to let Rogers testify, citing history in protecting staff so they can provide confidential advice to the president - except in rare cases, such as Watergate and 9/11.
"I don't think even Peter King would have the audacity to in some way have the Salahis in the trifecta of Watergate, 9/11 or some of the financial hearings," Gibbs said.
King replied, "The only audacity I had was 'the audacity of hope' that the White House would be honest. Unfortunately, they are more interested in covering up and stonewalling."