Tony Ornato, the senior Secret Service official who broke with agency precedent to serve as a political adviser during former President Donald Trump’s administration and who was at the center of testimony by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 has announced his retirement, Monday.
The 25-year veteran of federal law enforcement who served under five presidents became eligible for retirement earlier this year and departs the agency in “good standing,” according to a Secret Service official. His departure from his post as head of training was announced within the U.S. Secret Service, Monday afternoon. It follows the announcement of President Biden’s next pick to lead the agency: Kim Cheatle.
Ornato endured mounting scrutiny from the Jan. 6 House select committee after Hutchinson, who was a top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified about her conversations with Ornato, who was a White House deputy chief of staff to Trump when the attack on the U.S. Capitol took place.
Hutchinson testified before the committee that she had met with Ornato and Robert Engel, the Secret Service special agent in charge on Jan. 6, shortly after Trump returned from his address to the White House. According to Hutchinson, during that meeting, Ornato conveyed to her that the president had become “irate” in the car ride back to the White House when he was told that he could not go to the Capitol. He said something to the effect of “‘I’m the f***ing president, take me up to the Capitol now,'” Hutchinson recalled.
Again citing Ornato, she also said that when he was told that he had to return to the West Wing, Trump reached up to the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel, prompting Engel to grab his arm.
The president then used his free hand to lunge towards Engel, she said, noting that Ornato “motioned towards his clavicles” when describing the incident. Hutchinson added that at the time, Engel did not correct or disagree with any part of what Ornato said.
But the U.S. Secret Service pushed back on Hutchinson’s account, signaling that both Ornato and Engel would be willing to testify in response to Hutchinson’s sworn testimony, though neither one has appeared before the select committee since, according to three sources briefed on the matter.
A spokesperson for the agency said Ornato has been “continuously made available” to the committee and confirmed the now private citizen has retained legal representation.
Last month, current director James Murray, announced his retirement after three years of leading the agency, but postponed his departure amid multiple agency-wide investigations into apparently deleted text messages.
Murray’s retirement comes amid a probe by the Department of Homeland Security top watchdog into the deletion of thousands of text messages by U.S. Secret Service officials.
Last month, the Jan. 6 House select committee subpoenaed text messages of two dozen Secret Service agents, including Ornato that were apparently erased during an agency-wide technology migration, despite preservation requests from investigators and Congress. Staff for the House panel said they only received one text resulting from the July 15 subpoena to the agency requesting its text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021.
Ornato told colleagues he departs the agency “to pursue a career in the private sector.”