Top United States Secret Service official Tony Ornato, who became a figure of intense interest for the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, retired from the agency.
Ornato was thrust into the center of the January 6 furor as an eyewitness to some of the most critical incidents involving donald trump in the hours leading up to the deadly assault on the United States Capitol.
He started out as Trump’s Secret Service chief, but in an unprecedented move in December 2019, he became deputy White House chief of staff.
As such, he was drawn into the crosshairs of the Jan. 6 committee in its investigation into Trump’s role in instigating the Capitol insurrection. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson in June publicly testified to the committee that Ornato had told him that Trump had become “angry” when his security detail refused to drive him to the Capitol as the assault on Congress began.
The attack was aimed at preventing congressional certification of Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
When his Secret Service driver insisted he wasn’t safe to leave, Trump rushed to the wheel and then grabbed the agent’s throat, Hutchinson said Ornato told him . Ornato would have denied the account through anonymous sources.
Hutchinson also revealed to the committee that Ornato informed top White House aides on Jan. 6 itself that weapons were being carried among the crowds at the Capitol, including guns, knives and spears. Ornato did not deny this allegation.
On Monday, he confirmed he had retired from the Secret Service, saying in a statement that he wanted to work in the private sector. He has already been auditioned twice by the commission on January 6, although the content of his testimony has not been made public.
Among the areas of interest the committee is likely to pursue is Ornato’s knowledge of how Trump Vice President Mike Pence was treated by Secret Service agents on Jan. 6. !”, the vice-president’s security detail tried to persuade him to evacuate the area.
“I don’t get in the car,” Pence told the senior special agent, according to Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig in their book Only I can fix it.
At the White House, Ornato, who as deputy chief of staff oversaw Secret Service decisions, told Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg that the vice president was moving to the facility. military from Maryland Joint Base Andrews. Had he been evacuated, Pence would no longer have been able to certify Biden’s election victory, and Trump’s goal of postponing his defeat would have been achieved.
When Ornato said the Secret Service would move Pence, Kellogg was adamant, Rucker and Leonnig reported. “You can’t do that, Tony,” Kellogg said. “Leave him where he is. He has a job to do. I know you too well. You’ll take it to Alaska if you get the chance. Do not do it.