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Ex-Secret Service Agent Tony Ornato Sits For Interview With Jan. 6 Panel

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection heard on Tuesday from Tony Ornato, who served as deputy chief of staff for operations in former President Donald Trump’s White House.

This is the third time Ornato has been interviewed by House Jan. 6 investigators, according to The New York Times. His last appearance before the committee was in March.

The testimony, which was conducted virtually, lasted about five to six hours, CBS News reported.

“This was an opportunity for him to clear the record,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) who chairs the committee, told reporters Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Then-President Donald Trump, center, surrounded by members of the Secret Service, including Tony Ornato, right, walks across the tarmac to begin to greet supporters during his arrival at Palm Beach International Airport, in West Palm Beach, Fla., on April 18, 2019.
Then-President Donald Trump, center, surrounded by members of the Secret Service, including Tony Ornato, right, walks across the tarmac to begin to greet supporters during his arrival at Palm Beach International Airport, in West Palm Beach, Fla., on April 18, 2019.

Then-President Donald Trump, center, surrounded by members of the Secret Service, including Tony Ornato, right, walks across the tarmac to begin to greet supporters during his arrival at Palm Beach International Airport, in West Palm Beach, Fla., on April 18, 2019.

Ornato, a former Secret Service agent who retired in August, could help provide information on the former president’s whereabouts during the Capitol riot.

Ornato was also at the center of the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to onetime White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Hutchinson told the committee Ornato described to her a physical altercation that took place between Trump and Secret Service lead agent Bobby Engel when the latter refused to drive the former president to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump reportedly “lunged” at Engel after the agent removed the former president’s hand from the steering wheel.

The committee interviewed Engel earlier this month, according to CNN.

Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) suggested in September that Ornato was behind anonymous Secret Service quotes in the press denying Hutchinson’s account.

“I just think it’s so important to keep in mind that, through quote, anonymous sources, which we believe to be actually Tony Ornato himself, he pushed back against Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony and said, it’s just not true and Tony will testify under oath,” Kinzinger told CNN at the time. “And then of course, has not come in to testify under oath.”

The Illinois Republican also previously cast doubt on Ornato’s credibility.

“Tony Ornato likes to lie,” Kinzinger tweeted in June.

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Fellow committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said last month that based on new evidence the panel had received, some members of the Secret Service who appeared before the panel downplayed the warnings about the possibility of violence on Jan. 6.

During its last public hearing, the committee said the Secret Service received an anonymous tip in late December 2020 warning that white nationalists were prepared to “literally kill people” on Jan. 6. The committee also showed that Trump’s team was planning to declare victory regardless of whether he actually won.

The Secret Service has given the committee over a million documents, including electronic messages, according to NBC News.

House Jan. 6 investigators are now working to wrap up the probe before Republicans take over the chamber in January and likely end the investigation.

This week, the committee also heard from longtime Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway.

Thompson on Tuesday said the committee will likely produce its final report by Christmas.