Secret Service official at center of January 6 explosive testimony steps down from agency

A senior Secret Service official who served in a political post in Trump’s White House left the agency on Monday for a job in the private sector.

Tony Ornato, who was deputy director of the Secret Service, said his departure was planned more than a year ago, before explosive testimony to Congress this summer about the former president donald trumpJanuary 6 actions.

“I retired today to pursue a career in the private sector,” Ornato told NBC News. “I retired from the United States Secret Service after more than 25 years of loyal service to my country, including serving the last five presidents. I had planned for a long time to retire and I have been planning this transition for over one year.”

Secret Service Special Agent Kevin Helgert said Ornato retired “in good standing.”

Ornato ran the Trump protective detail and made the unusual move to a political post as White House deputy chief of staff for operations in 2019 before returning to the Secret Service to help oversee his training office.

Ornato became a key figure in the House committee’s Jan. 6 investigation into the insurrection when former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in open court that Ornato had described an incident to her at inside the armored SUV carrying Trump on Jan. 6, 2021. Hutchinson said Ornato described Trump rushing the driver and insisting they drive to the Capitol, where his supporters were gathering. Hutchinson’s account was disputed by some people familiar with the subject.

US Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Tuesday that Ornato testified before Hutchinson’s June 28 public testimony.

“We had several people testify prior to Hutchinson’s testimony, including Ornato,” Guglielmi said in a statement. “Following Hutchinson’s testimony, we have contacted the committee (of January 6) and indicated that our staff are available for follow-up questioning and we await their invitation.”

Ornato told NBC News he plans “to continue to cooperate with the Jan. 6 panel and all other related investigations,” but did not respond to an inquiry about whether he had testified before the panel since Jan. explosive testimony of Hutchinson or whether he intended to do so.

Ornato’s departure from the Secret Service comes amid other high profile changes within the agency. James Murray announced his retirement as director last month, ahead of congressional outcry over the demise of the Secret Service text messages of January 6 has become public. President Joe Biden named last week Kim Cheatle as Murray’s successor.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a Jan. 6 panel member, said in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the panel was reviewing the missing text messages and would likely “be able to get answers.” to that” when it resumes public hearings next month.

Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said he was notified that many messages from January 5 and 6 had been erased “as part of a device replacement program.”

Ornato said Tuesday that his lawyer had “been in contact” with the Office of the Inspector General, and that “they had discussed but had not yet agreed on a mutually convenient date for us to speak.”

He also tacitly disputed a media report it says he had retired two days before a scheduled meeting with the Office of Inspector General.

“I never planned to speak with the OIG on August 31,” Ornato said.

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