Jan. 6 committee to seek interviews with Secret Service officials
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack is planning to seek interviews with a half-dozen current and former Secret Service officials, according to a source familiar.
Dates for the interviews have not yet been set but come after the committee was given more than 1 million electronic communications from the Secret Service after an internal watchdog notified the panel that some of its texts from Jan. 6 appeared to have been “erased.”
Among those the panel wishes to speak with are two men whose names were brought to the forefront of the probe following explosive testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who detailed a story relayed to her about how then-President Trump “lunged” at his security detail after being told they would not transport him to the Capitol to join his supporters.
Those men are Tony Ornato, who briefly stepped away from the Secret Service to take a civil role as Trump’s deputy chief of staff, and Bobby Engel, who led Trump’s security detail that day. Ornato relayed the story to Hutchinson in front of Engel, who was said to have witnessed the event.
Both men have previously sat with the panel, but the committee is also seeking information from the yet-to-be-named driver of the car when Trump allegedly reached toward the steering wheel.
The panel also wishes to speak with Secret Service leaders, including Director Kimberly Cheatle, who was the assistant director of protective operations on Jan. 6.
Timothy Giebels, the head of former Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail, and Anthony Guglielmi, the agency’s communications director, are also of interest to the committee. Guglielmi didn’t join the agency until March of this year but handled its media response to the allegations laid out during Hutchinson’s testimony.
The Secret Service referred The Hill to the Jan. 6 committee for comment, and the panel did not immediately respond.
In a hearing earlier this month, the committee displayed new evidence it had gotten from the tranche of data turned over by the Secret Service — a cache that well exceeded what was asked for by the committee.
The panel showed intelligence reports, which corroborated earlier testimony from Hutchinson, showing that the Secret Service was well aware that Trump supporters gathered near the Ellipse prior to the attack on the Capitol were heavily armed, preventing them from entering the secure area where Trump was speaking.
They also showed segments of an interview with an unnamed former White House employee who said there was “[water] cooler talk” of “how angry the president was when they were, you know, in the limo” and that he was “irate” on the drive back to the White House, but stopped short of repeating Hutchinson’s second-hand account that Trump “lunged” at his driver.
Other messages showed that even once Trump was back at the White House following his speech, he was insistent on joining the mob at the Capitol. A Secret Service memo noted he would be “holding” at the Capitol for two hours before heading to meet his supporters. It wasn’t until shortly before 2 p.m. that the agency shut down such plans.
Minutes later, Trump would fire off a tweet criticizing Pence, alarming one agent who noted it was probably “not going to be good for Pence,” and another who expressed alarm that the tweet had gotten more than 20,000 likes in just minutes.