Washington (CNN) - In what one member of Congress called "a charade," a couple that showed up at President Obama's first state dinner - uninvited, the White House claims - declined to answer questions surrounding the event before a House committee Wednesday.
Under questioning from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, and others, Tareq Salahi repeated over and over again, "On the advice of counsel, I respectfully assert my right to remain silent and decline to answer your question."
The Salahis' attorney notified the committee in December that because of a pending investigation by federal prosecutors, they would not answer questions about how they gained entry to the White House on November 24, despite not being on the guest list to attend that night's state dinner for the prime minister of India.
In a brief statement that opened the often-contentious hearing, Salahi chastised the committee for requiring the couple to appear despite having been told the two would invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if subpoenaed. That, he alleged, is against the ethical rules of the Washington bar.
He incensed some committee members by reiterating the couple's respect for U.S. troops, the Secret Service and the president.