The Secret Service agents who have reportedly pushed back on bombshell testimony about former President Donald Trump in a presidential SUV on Jan. 6 were “very close” to him and have even been described as “yes men,” according to a Washington Post reporter.
In testimony before the House Jan. 6 Committee on Tuesday, former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson said she had heard that after the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally, Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the vehicle and “lunged” at a Secret Service agent in a desperate attempt to be taken to the Capitol.
Hutchinson testified that Tony Ornato, a Secret Service agent who also served as White House deputy chief of staff, told her about it after Trump had instead been driven back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where he apparently proceeded to throw his lunch against the wall in anger.
Later on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that three agents who were with Trump in the vehicle dispute that he “assaulted or grabbed at the leader of his security detail or that he grabbed for the steering wheel,” according to one current and one former law enforcement official familiar with the agents’ accounts. Various outlets also reported that Ornato and Bobby Engel, the lead Secret Service agent in the vehicle, are willing to testify to the committee disputing Hutchinson’s account.
In light of these developments, Post reporter Carol Leonnig appeared on MSNBC and offered some background information on Ornato and Engel.
Here is our conversation with @CarolLeonnig , who literally wrote the book on the Secret Service, about the questions surrounding Cassidy Hutchinson's recounting of the story of Donald Trump lunging for the steering wheel when he found out he wasn't going to the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/LYB8zGdvtp
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) June 29, 2022
The author of a book on the Secret Service that covers the Trump years, Leonnig told Rachel Maddow that the pair “were very, very close to President Trump.”
“And 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,” Leonnig said. “And that was frustrating to agents who were more focused on, say, security, or being independent, or good planning. So, both of these individuals lose a little credibility because of how closely they have been seen as aligned to Donald Trump.”
Leonnig then described the general political bent of the Secret Service during this time.
“There was a very large contingent of Donald Trump’s detail who were personally cheering for [Joe] Biden to fail. And some of them even took to their personal media accounts to cheer on the insurrection and the individuals riding up to the Capitol as patriots. That is problematic,” Leonnig said.
“I’m not saying that Tony Ornato or Bobby Engel did that,” she noted, “but they are viewed as being aligned with Donald Trump, which cuts against them. However, if they testify under oath [that] this is what happened, I think that’s going to be important, because Cassidy Hutchinson can only say what she heard happened.”