Secret Service Agent Who Tried to Torpedo Hutchinson Testimony Retires Abruptly

Tony Ornato, Secret Service deputy director, abruptly retired Monday, just two day before he was to be interviewed Jan. 6 investigators.

Ornato, the man who made the unprecedented transitionFrom the Secret Service to Trump White House as deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, pushed back on former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to the House Jan. 6 committee earlier this year, disputing her claim that former President Donald Trump lunged at a Secret Service agent after he was told he couldn’t accompany his supporters to the Capitol. Although anonymous agency sources told mediaOutlets Ornato was willing testify under oath. However, Ornato has yet not agreed to an interview with Jan. 6 committee. retained a private lawyer.

Ornato, who had been working as an assistant director in the office of training for the Secret Service, announced unexpectedly that he would be leaving the agency on Monday.

“I did retire today to pursue a career in the private sector. After more than 25 years of faithful service, including five years serving the presidents, I retired from U.S. Secret Service. I long-planned to retire and have been planning this transition for more than a year,” he said in a statement to CNN.

Ornato denied that Trump was his employer, but did not name the new employer. Sources said Ornato denied that he had taken a job with Trump or any of his companies, but did not name his new employer. CNN that Ornato had been eligible for retirement since earlier this summer and had discussed leaving the agency before Hutchinson’s testimony.

But Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the Jan. 6 committee, told the outlet that the panel has “stressed their desire” to interview Ornato.

“It’s not clear whether Ornato will end up testifying” about Hutchinson’s claims, according to the report. Ornato previously met with the committee in January and March to discuss Trump’s knowledge of then-Vice President Mike Pence’s location on Jan. 6 and whether he could have done more to calm his supporters.

The Secret Service is also under fire deleting text messages from dozens of officials’ phones from the time period around Jan. 6. Ornato was to be interviewed by Department of Homeland Security investigators who were looking into the text messages on Wednesday, according To The Intercept. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, department lawyers and the department’s inspector general “had been attempting to interview Ornato since June 29 and spent all of July and much of August following up,” according to the outlet.

Ornato has “indicated that he still intends to attend” the interview, according to an email obtained by The InterceptHowever, because he is a private citizen investigators won’t be able to subpoena him to get his cooperation in the probe.

Along with his pushback on Hutchinson’s testimony, Ornato also sought to move Pence to Joint Base Andrews during the riot, which could have delayed the certification of the presidential results, according to The Washington Post. Ornato denied the report through a spokesperson, but former officials from the administration and Jan. 6 committee members have raised doubts about his credibility.

“Those of us who worked w/ Tony know where his loyalties lie,” former Pence aide Olivia Troye tweetedIn June

Troye on Monday raised questions about Ornato’s unexpected retirement.

“I think the timing is suspect and interesting,” she told CNN. “I wonder what this means, he’ll be a private citizen, what does this mean going forward as the committee hearings start up again. I actually think it’s probably best for the Secret Service that Tony Ornato is leaving. He certainly brought a lot of disgrace and shame to the people who work there.”

Others have also raised questions about Ornato’s loyalties. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., alleged earlier this summer that Ornato “likes to lie.” Former White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah accused Ornato of lying about Trump’s infamous photo-op at a church near Lafayette Square. Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig wrote a book on the Secret Service. MSNBC that Ornato was repeatedly accused of being one of Trump’s “enablers and yes men.”

“This is a person who worked as President Trump’s security detail leader, and the boss liked him so much he installed him in a political White House job,” Leonnig told the outlet in June. “That broke every Secret Service tradition in the book because he stayed as a Secret Service employee, but Trump essentially had him directing the Secret Service to make sure that all of its campaigns events, all of his photo ops, everything that he wanted to do to get re-elected went off without a hitch.”

Troye said that she was particularly curious about who hired Ornato, a person who is not part of the Secret Service.

“I think it will be interesting to see how these plays out,” she told CNN, “and I’m also very curious to see where his future employment will be.”