Top Secret Service agents who tried. undermine former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to the Jan. 6 committee have hired private lawyers and are refusing to cooperate with the investigation, members of the panel said over the weekend.
Hutchinson was a top aide for Mark Meadows, the former White House chief-of-staff. testified last month Tony Ornato, deputy chief of staff, told her that former President Donald Trump was so upset that his security detail wouldn’t take him to the Capitol on Jan. 6, that he lunged against Bobby Engel (head of his detail). Hutchinson stated that Ornato described the incident with Engel present, a remarkable leap from his time at the Secret Service to his time working for Trump. He did not dispute the statement.
Journalists cite anonymous sources after her testimony reported that Engel and the driver of Trump’s vehicle were “prepared to testify under oath” to dispute Hutchinson’s account and that Ornato denied telling Hutchinson that Trump “grabbed the steering wheel or an agent.”
Hutchinson’s lawyer, Jody Hunt, a former aide to Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said that she stood by her account and urged the Secret Service agents to testify under oath. Several witnesses, including a D.C. police officer assigned to Trump’s motorcade, testified that Trump got into a “heated” confrontation With his security detail when he was told that he couldn’t go to the Capitol.
Ornato, Engel, and the unidentified driver of Trump’s vehicle have since hired private counsel, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., told reporters Last week.
“Some of the officers said that they would be coming and talking under oath,” said Lofgren, a member of the committee. “They have not come in, and they recently retained private counsel, which is unusual but they have a right to do that.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of two Republicans on the panel, said ABC News on Sunday that “it is not our decision that they have not [testified] so far.”
Asked if the Secret Service is refusing to cooperate, Kinzinger replied, “that’s a question you have to ask the Secret Service, you have to ask those particular people.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the committee’s vice-chair, told Fox News Sunday that “we have not had the kind of cooperation that we really need to have” from the Secret Service.
Questions have swirled about Ornato and Engel’s credibility since Hutchinson’s testimony. Washington PostCarol Leonnig, a reporter, wrote the book. Zero Failure: The Rise & Fall of the Secret ServiceDuring the Trump administration told MSNBC that both men were “very, very close to President Trump.”
“Some people accused them of at times being enablers and ‘yes men’ of the president — particularly Tony Ornato — and very much people who wanted to do what he wanted and see him pleased,” she said, adding that “both of these individuals lose a little credibility because of how closely they have been seen as aligned to Donald Trump.”
Ornato, who was previously employed by the Secret Service, made an unusual switch to work for Trump at the White House as deputy chief-of-staff for operations. Alyssa Farah, former White House spokesperson accused Ornato, who helped coordinate Trump’s infamous clearing of protesters at Lafayette Square for a photo-op at a nearby church, of lying about the incident. “There seems to be a major thread here… Tony Ornato likes to lie,” Kinzinger tweeted Last month.
The Secret Service was also criticized by the members of this committee. missing text messages Around the time of the Capitol attack. The Secret Service said that agents’ text messages were deleted during a system migration in Jan. 2021. In response to a subpoena by the committee, the agency only turned over one thread of text messages. Joseph Cuffari, the top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security was aware of the deleted text messages since February but did nothing to inform Congress. The Washington Post. Cuffari’s office has since opened a criminal investigation into the destruction of the text messages, NBC News Last week, the committee reported that the agency had been accused of violating federal record-keeping laws.
The committee, which held eight televised hearings over the last six weeks and plans to hold three more in September, vowed to continue its investigation, including into the “extent to which there are no text messages from the relevant period of time,” Cheney said Sunday.
“Those are all the things the committee is going to be looking at in more detail in the coming weeks,” Cheney told Fox News.