Tony Ornato, former White House deputy chief of staff, meeting with the House January 6 committee

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CNN

The House Select Committee investigating the riot at the Capitol on Tuesday will interview former White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato, a possible key witness whose testimony could shed new light on former President Donald Trump’s movements leading up to and on January 6, 2021, according to two sources familiar with the panel’s work.

Former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in June that Ornato, who went back to his post in the US Secret Service after Trump left office and retired earlier this year, told her that the former president lashed out and lashed out at a member of his guardian angel. detail because he demanded to be brought to the Capitol on January 6.

Tuesday’s virtual interview is Ornato’s first time meeting with the panel since Hutchinson’s testimony. Ornato has met with the committee twice ahead of his expected interview on Tuesday, once in January and again in March.

Hutchinson testified that Ornato told her that Trump became so angry when he learned that he could not go to the Capitol after his speech at the White House Ellipse on the morning of January 6 that he lunged at his motorcade’s chief constable, Robert Engel, and said something along the lines of ‘I’m the effing president. Take me to the Capitol now.”

The president reached to the front of the vehicle to grab the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said ‘Sir; you have to take your hand off the wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.” Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge at Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson testified.

Hutchinson said Ornato told her the story that Trump was “furious” at the White House office in Engel’s presence later that day. She said Engel, who CNN previously reported has also interviewed with the committee in recent weeks, “did not correct or disagree with any part of the story.”

Hutchinson’s testimony to Ornato’s description of the altercation was given under oath at the committee’s public hearing on June 28 and has become a key event in the timeline of Trump’s movements on January 6. The panel interviewed Engel for the first time since Hutchinson’s public testimony on November 17.

Ornato and Engel have not officially denied Hutchinson’s testimony. A Secret Service official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, previously told CNN that Ornato denies telling Hutchinson that the former president grabbed the wheel of his presidential SUV or an agent on his hand.

Members of the panel have long said they want to call Ornato again for further questioning.

“We are in a position in the very near future to call back Secret Service witnesses for a few additional questions,” Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, a committee member, told CNN’s Pamela Brown on “CNN Newsroom” in October. .

Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, told CNN in September that members of the panel believe Ornato was personally involved in efforts to discredit Hutchinson’s testimony while he was still with the agency. the story.

“I think it’s so important to bear in mind that, through citation, anonymous sources, who we think is actually Tony Ornato himself, he countered Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony and said, it’s just not true and Tony will testify under oath,” he told CNN. “And then, of course, he didn’t come in to testify under oath.”

In addition to the motorcade incident, Ornato could also be key to helping investigators fill in other blanks related to the Secret Service.

Questions about possibly deleted Secret Service text messages around Jan. 6 surfaced over the summer, leading the panel to demand more information from the agency through a subpoena. According to a spokesperson for the agency, the agency ultimately provided the commission with about 1.5 million communications leading up to the attack, including emails and planning documents. However, the set of records does not include the text messages lost due to a data migration that prompted a criminal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

Members had said they wanted to review the materials before calling Ornato and other agents and officials again.

At the October hearing, the commission revealed it had received messages and emails showing that the agency had received warnings about the prospect of violence before Jan. 6, as well as real-time reports of guns in the crowd ahead of Trump’s speech in the Ellipse as part of the vast trove of documents it received.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said at that hearing that the Secret Service received warnings about online threats against former Vice President Mike Pence ahead of the U.S. Capitol riot, including that Pence would be “a dead man who walks if he doesn’t do the right thing.” . thing.”

On Jan. 6, a Secret Service agent texted at 12:36 a.m., according to the commission, “With so many guns found so far; you wonder how many are unknown. Could be sporty in the dark.”

Another officer responded minutes later, “No doubt. The folks at the Ellipse said they’re moving to the Capitol after the POTUS speech.

Ornato’s anticipated interview with the committee on Tuesday comes as the panel has moved on a brisk pace to bring in as many as six additional Secret Service agents and officials. In recent weeks, the panel has interviewed the former head of Pence’s security detail, Tim Giebels; former Secret Service agent John Gutsmiedl; agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi; the Secret Service agent who was in the lead car on January 6; and the driver of Trump’s presidential vehicle on Jan. 6.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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