Top Secret Service Official At Center Of Hutchinson’s Testimony Leaves Agency

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 12: A text from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson to Assistant Director of the United States Secret Service Anthony Ornato appears above members of the Select Committee to Investigate t... WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 12: A text from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson to Assistant Director of the United States Secret Service Anthony Ornato appears above members of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol during the seventh hearing on the January 6th investigation in the Cannon House Office Building on July 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. The bipartisan committee, which has been gathering evidence for almost a year related to the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, is presenting its findings in a series of televised hearings. On January 6, 2021, supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol Building during an attempt to disrupt a congressional vote to confirm the electoral college win for President Joe Biden. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images) MORE LESS

U.S. Secret Service Assistant Director Anthony “Tony” Ornato left the Secret Service on Monday.

“I did retire today to pursue a career in the private sector. I retired from the U.S. Secret Service after more than 25 years of faithful service to my country, including serving the past five presidents. I long-planned to retire and have been planning this transition for more than a year,” Ornato told CNN.

Ornato became a central character in the events of Jan. 6 when former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified about former President Donald Trump’s behavior during the attack.

In her testimony, Hutchinson said that Ornato, then deputy White House chief of staff for operations, relayed a story to her in which the former president climbed into his limo with his personal security detail under the impression that he was being taken to the Capitol.

When the accompanying Secret Service agent told him he was being taken to the White House, Ornato told Hutchinson that Trump said something along the lines of: “I’m the fucking president, take me up to the Capitol now,” before reaching for the steering wheel. Robert Engel, head of Trump’s personal security detail, then grabbed Trump’s arm and told him where they were going, but according to Hutchinson’s testimony, Trump lunged at him.

In the days following Hutchinson’s testimony, anonymous sources tried to sow doubt with reporters about her account — prompting fresh calls to hear from Ornato himself.

Ornato has reportedly met with the January 6 committee twice, but watchdogs have accused him of evading interviews with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General for months.

According to The Intercept, Ornato finally agreed to an interview with the agency on August 31, but his resignation means he cannot be legally compelled to cooperate with the probe. 

Ornato denied that, telling NBC: “I was never scheduled to speak with the OIG on August 31.”

DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari had reached out to the Secret Service a month after the insurrection requesting written communications from 24 employees around the attack. But the Secret Service soon admitted that nearly all text exchanges from the recipients had been erased in a planned three-month phone system migration transfer. The deleted texts, the  resistance from the agency about explaining the texts, and discrepancies in Cuffari’s reports to Congress have incensed lawmakers and led them to demand answers about how this could have happened and whether there was any foul play involved.

Correction: Due to an editing error, this article initially stated that Ornato was reportedly set to meet with the Jan. 6 Committee this week. In fact, reports stated that Ornato was set to meet with the DHS IG, not the Jan. 6 Committee, though Ornato denies that an interview was scheduled.

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