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The party crashers: Turmoil in the White House

Michaele and Tareq Salahi, a couple from Northern Virginia, are at the center of a controversy after they gained admission, uninvited, to a White House state dinner on Nov. 24, 2009.

Mitchell said the Salahis suggested that they had misplaced their formal invitation. "My sense was that they had an invitation and left it at home," Mitchell said. "They felt they were on a guest list and just needed their two forms of ID to prove who they were."

The camera crew tried to make the best of the situation, according to Mitchell. They filmed a "discussion about how they felt about misplacing their invitation," Mitchell recalled. "Tell us how you feel about misplacing your shoes, tell us how you feel about misplacing your invitation," Mitchell said the producers asked the Salahis.

The camera crew also shot Michaele talking to a friend on the phone about how excited she was about her evening's plans. "Oh, you'll never guess where I'm going tonight," she said into the phone, according to Mitchell. After the phone call ended, the production crew and the Salahis discussed what they thought was missing from that particular conversation, and decided to do a "second take," according to Mitchell, who had the impression that, in the second conversation, Michaele "may have been talking to someone involved in the filming."

By that point, the limo was en route to the White House, and when it pulled up to the pedestrian gate a few minutes later, a plainclothes Secret Service officer asked Mitchell for his name.

"I'm not on the list but my guest in the car should be," Mitchell recalled telling the officer. He then announced the Salahis as his passengers.

"They're just going to have to get out here," the officer responded, according to Mitchell.

At that point the Salahis and the crew got out of the car. After some last-minute sartorial and cosmetic touch-ups, the couple walked toward the entrance and the camera crew departed in a van that had been following the limo.

Heading into the dinner

That initial rejection should have triggered phone calls and set off security alarm bells, said Cathy Hargraves, a former White House staffer and George W. Bush-era hire who resigned in June after Rogers, the current social secretary, stripped her of most of her responsibilities supervising guest lists.

"I would have called the deputy social secretary, checked that they were not on our guest lists, and then told the Secret Service, 'Please don't let them in,' " Hargaves said. "Everybody would have been on the lookout for them."

According to Shapiro, the administration spokesman, social office staff were stationed at the east landing and available for calls from the Secret Service.

The couple proceeded to the pedestrian checkpoint, where they encountered two officers, a man and a woman, who checked names against a list.

"The female agent stated 'IDs please,' " Michaele wrote in a witness statement, signed by the couple and the Secret Service, which was obtained by The Post. Michaele stated that Tareq silently presented the couple's passports.

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