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White House Dinner Crashers May Face Criminal Charges

Even as Michaele and Tareq Salahi try to sell their story to the highest media bidder, it looks like America’s most successful party crashers may get more than the money and reality show they were after. CBS reports they may soon be facing criminal charges. Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin says that’s one reason the agency hasn’t explained more fully how it is that the faux Washington socialites managed to slip into a White House dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday, get in the president’s receiving line and splash their photos with the vice president on their Facebook pages.

George Washington Law Professor Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy speculates that the couple is likely to be hit with a charge under 18 U.S.C. § 1036: “Entry by false pretenses to any real property, vessel, or aircraft of the United States or secure area of any airport or seaport.”

That could be coupled with trespass charges and charges for whatever misrepresentation was involved in their sneaking into the dinner. 18 U.S.C. § 1001, notes Kerr, would be one good option, as it’s so broad that it essentially criminalizes lying to the federal government. The law goes after:

Whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully–

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years . . .

The Salahis will presumably try to get around all that by saying they didn’t actually lie but somehow just left the impression that they were on the president’s guest list. I still think it’ll be tough to get around section (1) of that law, and Kerr explains how the various charges could all be bundled together to make one big fat felony.

Even if the exact criminal violations remain unclear, Kerr notes one thing that’s evident at this point: “Crashing a White House state dinner, and then bragging about it on Facebook, is really really dumb.”

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