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QUICK ESCAPE: Trump aide Tony Ornato quits Secret Service two days before Jan. 6 testimony

QUICK ESCAPE: Trump aide Tony Ornato quits Secret Service two days before Jan. 6 testimony

QUICK ESCAPE: Trump aide Tony Ornato quits Secret Service two days before Jan. 6 testimony

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Former Trump White House deputy chief of staff Anthony Ornato has officially resigned from his position with the Secret Service, sending an email Monday afternoon announcing his retirement. After Cassidy Hutchinson — the top aide to Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — gave damning testimony about the actions of the Secret Services on January 6, including what was witnessed by Ornato and fellow Secret Service agent Robert Engel, the top USSS official has been at the center of multiple investigations into the Capitol attack.

“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 spokesperson and special agent Kevin Helgert told The Intercept on Monday evening.

The announcement comes just two days before Ornato was scheduled to testify before federal investigators probing the January 6th insurrection and means that he can no longer be compelled as a federal employee to give that testimony.

Ornato reportedly met twice with Congress — in January and March — to discuss then-President Trump’s knowledge, if any, about the whereabouts of his Vice President on the day of the Capitol riots. Ornato is suspected of planning to have transported Pence to Andrews Air Force base – where he would’ve missed the electoral count and disrupted the confirmation of Joe Biden’s election.

“Among the topics Ornato discussed with the committee, the source said, were then-President Donald Trump’s knowledge of then-Vice President Mike Pence’s whereabouts during the attack on the US Capitol and whether Trump could have done more to encourage the rioters to calm down and leave the building,” according to CNN.

The House Select Committee wasn’t impressed with Ornato’s original testimony. Committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), told NBC that Ornato was “evasive” with the investigative panel. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL), one of the panel’s only two Republicans, said White House staffers made claims that Ornato “lied about their interactions with him.”

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Testimony from Hutchinson detailed a near-violent incident between Donald Trump and his head of security when the agent refused to take his commander-in-chief to the Capitol. Trump reportedly was so enraged that he lunged at his security official’s throat and attempted to grab the steering wheel.

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The story was relayed to Hutchinson by Ornato who later denied it.

The now ex-Secret Service agent has avoided meeting with federal investigators.

“The attorney general had been attempting to interview Ornato since June 29 and spent all of July and much of August following up,” a memo sent by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General to the head of the Secret Service said.

Less than a week ago, Ornato blamed a “vacation” for his inability to meet with investigators.

“I believe my counsel spoke to you and / or your team, but I am traveling out of district on annual leave and am not available on the dates provided,” Ornato wrote in an email on August 24. “When I am back from vacation, I will circle back with you and your team.”

Ornato reportedly plans to attend the interview on Wednesday, but with his abrupt resignation he is now a private citizen and out of the reach of testimonial subpoena authority, i.e., he can’t be compelled to testify.

The U.S. Secret Service has come under scrutiny in recent months after text messages from the period around January 6th were “deleted” during pre-scheduled data replacement – weeks after Congress had already requested them, inspiring some to accuse the agency of obstruction.

We’ll soon see whether the Justice Department will be forced to subpoena Ornato as a private citizen as it conducts its criminal investigation into the January 6th insurrection planning.

Original reporting by Ken Klippenstein at The Intercept.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

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