Shortly after his speech on the Ellipse ended on January 6, 2021, President Donald Trump climbed into the back of the black suburbs bearing the presidential seal.
What happened next became the subject of heated debate after Tuesday’s explosive testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, who said Trump was angry when his security personnel refused to take him to the Capitol.
Speaking before the House committee investigating the attack, Hutchinson said the White House deputy chief of staff, Anthony M. to join his supporters. Hutchinson also said Ornato told her that the president had “rushed” to his main Secret Service agent, Robert Engel.
Hutchinson made it clear in her public testimony that she had no direct knowledge of the incident, but Ornato told her with Engel who was in the room. It remains unclear what, if any, the commission has done to confirm this.
Secret Service officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disputed her account.
But officials said Engel, Ornato and the suburban driver were ready to confirm to the panel another damning discovery of Hutchinson’s testimony: that Trump had asked his agents to bring him to the Capitol so he could join his supporters, even after they confirmed a dangerous scene playing there.
Agents’ willingness to provide potentially crucial details about the person they were protecting represents a rare turnaround for an agency that has historically prioritized the secrecy of chiefs, even in the face of investigations.
On Wednesday, Hutchinson’s attorney, Jodi Hunt, said his client “stands by all the testimony I gave yesterday, under oath” and challenged others who knew of Trump’s actions during the trip to come to the panel.
“Those who know the episode must also testify under oath,” he said.
In an interview with committee member Chuck Todd, committee member Stephanie Murphy, Democrat, she said Ornato “had no clear memories of this time period as I can tell Mrs. Hutchinson did.”
Asked whether the commission had evidence to support Hutchinson’s allegations, Representative Jimmy Raskin, MD, Maryland, said Tuesday that Hutchinson’s testimony was the same as the “evidence” he was aware of. “I am not aware of anything that contradicts the account I have just given,” he said.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the committee did not contact the agency about Hutchinson’s account of Trump’s trip from the Ellipse to the White House prior to her testimony.
A Secret Service official said Ornato, who was the head of Trump’s Secret Service details division before becoming deputy chief of staff, and Engel gave his testimony to the committee before Hutchinson appeared, but they were prepared to do so again.
Trump allies are using the row over what happened in the presidential car to discredit Hutchinson’s testimony as a whole, which painted a picture of a president who ignored threats of violence from his supporters, sympathizing with those who wanted to “hang” the vice president and wanted to join the crowd that went to attack the Capitol.
The dispute also highlights Trump’s relationship with Secret Service details, which has been unlike most previous presidents. Clients have been seen as more publicly support and admire Trump than they have been under any other modern president, according to people who have spent time in the White House during multiple administrations, and Trump has worked to build loyalty among them.