Tony Ornato, former White House deputy chief of staff, meets with the House committee on January 6


The House Select Committee to Investigate Capitol Riot questions former White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato on Tuesday, a potentially key witness whose testimony could shed new light on former President Donald Trump’s movements until January 6, 2021, according to two close sources of the panel’s work.

Former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in June that Ornato, who returned to his post with the US Secret Service after Trump left office and retired earlier this year, told him the former president had become angry and s was thrown at a member of his protection group as he demanded to be taken to the Capitol on January 6.

Tuesday’s virtual interview is Ornato’s first time meeting with the panel since Hutchinson’s testimony. Ornato met with the committee twice ahead of his scheduled interview on Tuesday, once in January and again in March.

Hutchinson testified that Ornato told him Trump got so upset when he was told he couldn’t go to the Capitol after his White House Ellipse speech on the morning of January 6 that he had lunged at his motorcade’s chief constable, Robert Engel, and said something to the effect of “I am President Effing.” Take me to the Capitol now.

“The President reached out to the front of the vehicle to grab the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said ‘Sir; you must take your hand off the steering wheel. We are going back to the west wing. We don’t let’s not go to the Capitol. Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge at Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said Ornato told him the “angry” Trump story at the White House office later that day with Engel present. She said Engel, who CNN previously reported also interviewed the committee in recent weeks, “did not correct or disagree with any part of the story.”

Hutchinson’s testimony about Ornato’s description of the altercation was sworn in the committee’s open hearing on June 28 and became a key event in Trump’s motion timeline on January 6. The panel interviewed Engel for the first time since Hutchinson’s November 17 public testimony.

Neither Ornato nor Engel denied Hutchinson’s testimony in the filing. A Secret Service official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, previously told CNN that Ornato denies telling Hutchinson that the former president seized the steering wheel of his presidential SUV or an agent on his contact information.

Panel members have long said they want to call Ornato back for further questioning.

“We are in a position in the very near future to call back the Secret Service witnesses for a few additional questions,” he added. Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren a committee member, CNN’s Pamela Brown told “CNN Newsroom” in October.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, member of the committee, told CNN in September that panel members believe Ornato was personally involved in efforts to discredit Hutchinson’s testimony while he was still with the agency. and said unnamed Secret Service officials and others simply embraced his side of the story.

“I just think it’s so important to keep in mind that through quotes, from unnamed sources, who we believe to be in fact Tony Ornato himself, he pushed back against Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony and said, it’s just not true and Tony will testify under oath,” he told CNN. “And then, of course, did not come to testify under oath.”

In addition to the motorcade incident, Ornato could also be key to helping investigators fill in other Secret Service blanks.

Questions about potential secret service deleted text messages around Jan. 6 emerged over the summer, leading the panel to seek more information from the agency through a subpoena. The agency ultimately provided about 1.5 million communications since preparing for the attack, including emails and planning documents to the committee, according to an agency spokesperson. The batch of records, however, does not include text messages lost during a data migration that prompted a criminal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General.

The members had said they wanted to finish going through the material before calling back Ornato and other agents and officials.

At its October hearing, the committee revealed that it had obtained messages and emails showing that the agency had received warnings before January 6 about the prospect of violence, as well as real-time reports on weapons in the crowd before Trump’s speech at the Ellipse as part of the huge amount of documents he received.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said during that hearing that the Secret Service received online threat alerts against former Vice President Mike Pence before the Capitol riot, including that Pence would be “a dead man walking s ‘he does not make the law’. thing.”

On Jan. 6, a Secret Service agent texted at 12:36 p.m., according to the committee: “With so many weapons found so far; you wonder how many are unknown. Could be sporty after dark.

Another officer replied a few minutes later: “Without a doubt. The Ellipse people said they would move to the Capitol after POTUS’ speech.

Ornato’s scheduled interview with the committee on Tuesday comes as the panel moved at a rapid pace to bring in up to half a dozen additional Secret Service agents and officials. Over the past few weeks, the panel has interviewed former Pence security chief Tim Giebels; former Secret Service agent John Gutsmiedl; agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi; the Secret Service agent who was in the lead car on January 6; and the driver of Trump’s presidential vehicle on January 6.

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