WASHINGTON — Two upscale hair stylists testified Tuesday before a federal grand jury investigating the attention-hungry couple who got into a White House state dinner without an invitation.
The grand jury appearances by Erwin Gomez and Peggy Ioakim covered their conversations with Tareq and Michaele Salahi the day of the Nov. 24 dinner.
The Salahis spent hours being groomed at the salon where the two stylists work in the fashionable Georgetown section before heading for the White House that evening. The Salahis have been trying to land a part on a Bravo reality show, "The Real Housewives of D.C.," and were filmed by the TV show around town as they prepared for the White House dinner.
Following the grand jury appearances of Gomez and Ioakim, their lawyer, David Tobin, said the two answered the questions they were asked, and Gomez called it "a good experience."
Gomez and Ioakim went through two rounds of questioning at the courthouse – first by Secret Service agents and prosecutors and then in front of the grand jury.
Gomez and Ioakim arrived and left in style, riding in a stretch Hummer limousine.
The Salahis were allowed into the White House dinner even though they were not on the guest list. The Secret Service has apologized for the breakdown in security, and three uniformed Secret Service officers were put on administrative leave.
Legal experts have said the government might try to prosecute the Salahis for making false statements to the Secret Service, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison. That, however, would depend heavily on what the couple told the screeners at the White House that night.
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told Congress that normal security protocols were not followed regarding the Salahis. As a result of the incident, the White House social office was told to return to a long-standing policy of having White House employees stationed at security checkpoints to help the Secret Service clear up any problems over invitations to state dinners.
Separately, Virginia regulators are investigating the Salahis' fundraising practices. The couple says money raised through the polo tournament goes to their nonprofit Journey for the Cure. But state officials say the nonprofit didn't register with the state to raise money until November.
Subpoenas have been issued for the Salahis to testify before Congress on the Nov. 24 incident. Through their attorney, the Salahis have said they will invoke their Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify against themselves.