The Secret Service may pursue a criminal investigation of the Virginia couple who crashed a White House dinner, but events at the security checkpoint may determine whether the security breach is a crime or just an embarrassment.
Jim Mackin, an agency spokesman, said the possible turn toward criminal charges is one reason the Secret Service has kept mum about what happened when Michaele and Tareq Salahi arrived at the checkpoint Tuesday. They were not on the guest list for the dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Federal law makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully falsify statements on matters within the federal government’s jurisdiction.
Nobody disputes that the couple, candidates for a reality TV show, were allowed through security. The Secret Service acknowledges that its procedures weren’t followed.
Yet, it remains unclear whether the couple lied to the security officers and, if so, whether they violated federal law.
“As this moves closer to a criminal investigation there’s less that we can say,” Mackin said. “I don’t want to jeopardize what could be a criminal investigation. We’re not leaving any option off the table at this point.”
The Salahis lawyer, Paul Gardner, posted a comment on their Facebook page saying, “My clients were cleared by the White House, to be there.” He said more information would be forthcoming.
Several messages left at Gardner’s law firm on Friday were not immediately returned.
Bravo Media has confirmed that Michaele Salahi is being considered as a participant in the upcoming “The Real Housewives of D.C.” program and on the day of the dinner was being filmed around Washington by Half Yard Productions, the producer of the program.
“Half Yard Productions was told by Michaele and Tareq Salahi that they had been invited to the State Dinner. We took them at their word and filmed their preparations for the event. Half Yard Productions had no part in planning their presence at the event,” said Abby Greensfelder of Half Yard Productions.
Though it remained unclear how close the Salahis may have gotten to President Barack Obama at the dinner — none of the photos from the event posted on Michaele Salahi’s Facebook page show them with the president.
The couple has been in close proximity to Obama in the past, photos show, raising fresh questions about how they have managed to get so near to the president.
One photo, apparently taken in the days before Obama took the oath of office, shows the Salahis in a group shot with Obama and some of the musicians who performed at an inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, including Fergie and will.i.am.
“Lots of my dear friends here including, President OBAMA with MICHAELE, my husband Tareq, The Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Will.i.am & Randy Jackson, formerly with JOURNEY the Rock Band who I LOVE!, and now Judge on American Idol,” the caption says.
Other photos show the Salahis in the empty, glass-enclosed box from which the Obamas watched the concert and, according to the caption, “backstage with the Secret Service at the Lincoln Memorial during the Presidential Inauguration.”
Facebook photos show the couple posing with an array of celebrities and politicians, including former President Bill Clinton, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, entertainer Donny Osmond, weatherman Willard Scott and music producer Quincy Jones, among others.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this story.