Secret Service official at center of Jan. 6 committee probe retires

Andrew Harnik/AP Photo
·2 min read

Tony Ornato, the senior Secret Service official who served as a top aide in Donald Trump’s White House and faced scrutiny from the Jan. 6 select committee earlier this summer, announced his retirement Monday.

The agency confirmed Ornato’s retirement, which was announced internally earlier in the day. He’s the latest high-level official in the Secret Service to announce his departure in recent weeks. Spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said Ornato — who joined the Secret Service in 1997 — became eligible for retirement earlier this year and leaves the agency in good standing.

Ornato’s role in the Trump White House made national headlines after explosive testimony by former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said he had briefed Trump and other White House officials about armed elements within Trump’s rally crowd on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021.

Although Ornato quickly signaled he was willing to testify in response to Hutchinson’s account, he has yet to appear for a new interview with the select committee, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Asked about the status of those discussion, Guglielmi said “We have continuously made Tony Ornato available.” He noted, however, that Ornato is now a private citizen and no longer a federal employee.

In a statement, Ornato said he retired today “to pursue a career in the private sector.”

“I retired from the U.S. Secret Service after more than 25 years of faithful service to my country, including serving the past five presidents,” he said. “I long-planned to retire and have been planning this transition for more than a year.”

Ornato’s departure comes shortly after the director of the Secret Service, James Murray, announced his own intention to retire but put it on hold amid expanding investigations into the agency’s conduct in the days surrounding the Capitol attack.

The Department of Homeland Security inspector general is investigating the deletion of thousands of text messages by dozens of officials as part of what the agency has described as a phone upgrade. Those missing messages include those sent on and around Jan. 6.

Hutchinson also indicated that it was Ornato who described to her a Jan. 6 altercation between Trump and Robert Engel, the head of the then-president's Secret Service detail, in the presidential SUV. That encounter took place, according to Hutchison, after Engel told Trump he could not travel to the Capitol with his supporters.