National Security

Secret Service official at center of Jan. 6 hearing departs agency

Tony Ornato, the Secret Service’s assistant director who became a central figure during a Jan. 6 committee hearing in which he reportedly told a witness that former President Trump was “irate,” has left the agency.

Anthony Guglielmi, the Secret Service’s communications chief, confirmed Ornato’s departure to The Hill, adding that he retired after 25 years of service.

Ornato, who at the time of the riot was serving as Trump’s deputy chief of staff, came into the spotlight during testimony by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said Ornato told her that Trump was “irate” when Robert Engel, the special agent in charge for Secret Service at the time, told the former president he could not go to the Capitol that day.

Hutchinson also testified that Trump lunged at his security detail and toward the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle, demanding to head to Capitol Hill, where a mob of his supporters would eventually breach the complex. She said Ornato had not disputed that account to her.

Ornato, whose appointment as Trump’s deputy chief of staff in 2019 was highly unusual for a career Secret Service official, has said he is willing to dispute Hutchinson’s account under oath, but has so far not spoken publicly about it.

Guglielmi told The Hill that Ornato has not testified to the committee since Hutchinson’s testimony.

Ornato is not the only senior Secret Service official to announce their departure in recent weeks. 

President Biden on Wednesday tapped Kimberly Cheatle to serve as the agency’s next director, taking over for retiring Director James Murray, who briefly delayed his exit as the Secret Service faced scrutiny over its agents’ actions regarding missing text messages just before and on Jan. 6, 2021.

Text messages sent by Secret Service agents on Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 were deleted during a device replacement program, according to the agency.

Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general, eventually alerted lawmakers about the device replacement program, but lawmakers have raised questions about why Cuffari did not provide notification sooner.

The Jan. 6 committee quickly subpoenaed the text messages after being alerted by Cuffari. Agents were instructed to archive any records ahead of the migration, but the Secret Service ultimately turned over just one message to the Jan. 6 committee, sent by the former Capitol Police Chief as he pleaded for help.

Cuffari’s office eventually abandoned efforts to recover missing text messages from the Secret Service and DHS, according to emails released by lawmakers.

Updated 8:50 p.m.

Tags Biden Donald Trump James Murray Jan. 6 Joseph Cuffari Secret Service Tony Ornato Trump

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