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Top Secret Service official at center of Jan. 6 investigation retires

Anthony Ornato, a Secret Service agent interviewed by investigators looking into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, is leaving the agency after 25 years

Secret Service agents, including Anthony Ornato, right, stand guard as President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House in 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official at the center of the House investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol, has retired.

“We can confirm that Anthony Ornato retired from the U.S. Secret Service today in good standing after 25 years of devoted service,” Secret Service Special Agent Kevin Helgert said in a statement late Monday. Politico first reported on the retirement.

Ornato, as head of President Donald Trump’s personal security detail, grew close to the president, who hired him as White House deputy chief of staff for operations — a transition unprecedented in the agency’s history. In that role, Ornato helped coordinate a controversial June 2020 photo op in which Trump strode defiantly across Lafayette Square to pose with a Bible after the park had been forcibly cleared of peaceful protesters.

But the spotlight focused on Ornato after Cassidy Hutchinson, who was an aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack that Ornato told her Trump had lunged at a Secret Service agent who refused to take him to the Capitol after a rally at the Ellipse, before the riot.

Hutchinson said Ornato told her Trump was “irate” that he wasn’t allowed to go to the Capitol with his supporters after his speech at the rally. Ornato, she testified, said Trump had lunged toward the then-head of his Secret Service detail, Bobby Engel. Engel, Hutchinson said, never disputed what Ornato said.

But Ornato immediately disputed Hutchinson’s testimony and said he’d be willing to testify before the Jan. 6 panel to refute her statements. Although the committee interviewed Ornato before Hutchinson’s testimony, it is not clear whether he has spoken to the panel again since.

In another portion of her testimony, Hutchinson said that Ornato informed Meadows on the morning of Jan. 6 that Trump’s rallygoers had weapons, and that Ornato told her he’d also informed Trump. There have been no reports that Ornato disputes this portion of Hutchinson’s testimony.

Ornato is also connected to a separate investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, this one conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who is looking into the mass deletion of thousands of text messages sent by Secret Service officials. The Secret Service has said the deletion was done as part of a phone upgrade. The deleted text messages include some sent on and around Jan. 6.

Ornato returned to the Secret Service after Trump’s departure from the White House, serving as assistant director of the agency’s training department.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. What was likely to be the panel’s final public hearing has been postponed because of Hurricane Ian. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.

Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.

What we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6: New details emerged when Hutchinson testified before the committee and shared what she saw and heard on Jan. 6.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6.