WASHINGTON – A man who may have been a third uninvited guest at White House state dinner for India's prime minister asserted Monday that he did receive an invitation.
But when pressed in a nationally broadcast interview, Washington businessman Carlos Allen said only that he had gotten a White House invitation for the day. But he couldn't display anything with his name on it. Allen said he didn't know precisely the nature of Secret Service procedures, but insisted repeatedly he had not crashed the Nov. 24 State Dinner for visiting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Allen was among three people who purportedly went without invitations to the official party that President Barack Obama gave for Singh — a circumstance that has caused a continuing controversy long after the lights were darkened.
Two others, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, got in without displaying invitations to security personnel on site, and so far have resisted congressional subpoenas seeking their testimony. The Secret Service acknowledged that mistakes were made, leading to a security breach.
Allen, unlike the Salahis, never got close to Obama at the event.
Interviewed Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Allen said repeatedly: "I was invited. I actually got an invitation in the mail. I have the actual invite." But the business executive acknowledged under questioning by anchor Robin Roberts that he couldn't produce any piece of paper — including a table assignment card — with his name on it.
Allen, who operates an event business called Hush Galleria, said that a Secret Service employee checked him through security and a White House employee later directed him to a seat at his request.
Appearing with Allen, attorney A. Scott Bolden said, "Whether you believe that he had an invitation or a place card or not," he became an invitee at some point in the evening.
"He asked a White House staffer, 'Where do I sit,' and a White House staff steered him to that seat," Bolden said. "Doesn't sound like Carlos Allen is a criminal trespasser. He's a cooperative witness with the Secret Service, and we'll see how this plays out."
Allen said he'd gone to a nearby hotel where he ultimately hooked up with an Indian delegation after failing to gain admittance at either of two Secret Service-guarded gates at the Executive Mansion.
"It was cold. It was raining. I had a cough, I had a cold," he said, adding that he found well-dressed people lined up in a lobby when he arrived at the Hotel Willard.
"I started seeing a lot of people in the hallway. As I was looking around, everyone was looking good," he said. "They said, 'It's time to go to the White House.' So I got in line with everybody else. I basically had my invite. ... I went up to the Secret Service individual. He basically wanded me. He checked to make sure that I had nothing wrong ... and I basically walked in."
Allen explained that he removed a Web posting about the dinner because he was concerned about "a frenzy" surrounding the Salahis.
"Their faces were everywhere," he said of the Salahis, " and my focus was to do good things. ... I didn't want to embarrass anyone. I did not want to embarrass my president."
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