Tony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who broke agency precedent to serve as a political adviser to former President Donald Trump’s administration and who was at the center of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony about Trump’s actions on January 6, announced his retirement, Monday .
The 25-year veteran of federal law enforcement who has served under five presidents was eligible for retirement earlier this year and is leaving the agency in “good standing”, according to the Secret Service official. On Monday afternoon, the US Secret Service announced his resignation as head of training. This follows the announcement of President Biden’s next nominee to head the agency: Kim Cheetle.
Ornato has come under increasing scrutiny by the Jan. 6 House Select Committee after Hutchinson, who was a top aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified to her conversations with Ornato, who was W
Hutchinson testified before the committee that she met with Ornato and Robert Engel, the Secret Service special agent in charge, on January 6, shortly after Trump returned from his White House speech. According to Hutchinson, during that meeting, Ornato informed her that the president “got angry” on the way back to the White House when he was told he couldn’t go to the Capitol. He said something like: “I’m the fucking president, take me to the Capitol now,” Hutchinson recalled.
Quoting Ornato again, she also said that when told he had to return to the West Wing, Trump reached to the front of the car to grab the steering wheel, prompting Engel to grab his arm.
The president then rushed towards Engel with his free hand, she said, noting that Ornato “pointed to his collarbones” as he described the incident. Hutchinson added that at the time, Engel did not correct or disagree with any part of what Ornato said.
But the U.S. Secret Service dismissed Hutchinson’s account, making it clear that both Ornato and Engel would be willing to testify in response to Hutchinson’s sworn testimony, though neither has since appeared before a special committee, according to three sources briefed on the matter. question.
A spokesman for the agency said Ornato was “ongoingly provided” to the committee and confirmed that the private individual now retained legal representation.
Last month, current director James Murray announced his retirement after three years at the agency, but delayed his departure amid multiple agency-wide investigations into allegedly deleted text messages.
Murray’s retirement comes amid an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s top watchdog into the deletion of thousands of text messages by U.S. Secret Service officials.
Last month, a Jan. 6 House Select Committee subpoenaed text messages from two dozen Secret Service agents, including Ornato, that appeared to have been erased during an agency-wide technology migration despite requests from investigators and Congress for preservation. House committee officials said they received only one message as a result of a July 15 subpoena to the agency requesting text messages dated January 5 and 6, 2021.
Ornato told colleagues that he was leaving the agency “to pursue a career in the private sector.”
First published August 29, 2022 / 10:18 pm
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