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Anthony Ornato, a key witness from January 6, will speak to the House panel


WASHINGTON — Anthony M. Ornato, the former Secret Service agent and White House aide at the heart of a dispute over conflicting accounts of President Donald J. Trump’s actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, must be interviewed Tuesday before the House committee investigating the attack, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The committee has sought for weeks to re-examine Mr. Ornato as it delves into Secret Service activities around the time of Jan. 6, 2021, an area of ​​inquiry that members say is one of the final pieces. major unfinished business before the panel completes its highly anticipated report on the attack.

Mr. Ornato, who as White House deputy chief of staff oversaw the logistics of the president’s trips abroad, is key to a dispute over events in a presidential SUV that day. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, told lawmakers Mr. Ornato told her that Mr. Trump had become furious and demanded to join a crowd of his supporters on Capitol Hill.

Secret Service officials disputed aspects of his account and panel members accused Mr. Ornato of being less than honest with them in a previous interview. Important new answers from Mr. Ornato could help determine whether the dispute is a legitimate battle over Ms. Hutchinson’s credibility or an attempt to cover the waters over her testimony, which provided a devastating account of Mr. Trump’s actions on the 6 January.

Mr. Ornato’s closed-door interview is scheduled a day after the panel interviewed Kellyanne Conway, a former senior adviser to Mr. Trump. Committee members were interested in a scene from Jonathan Lemire’s book “The Big Lie” in which Mr. Trump, using an expletive, asked Ms. Conway how he could lose to President Biden.

Panel compiles more evidence on how Mr Trump knew his claims about a stolen election were false as members discuss how best to present findings from their more than 1,000 witness interviews in a final report which should be hundreds of pages. Lawmakers also said they plan to release full transcripts of their interviews.

Over the past several weeks, the Jan. 6 committee has interviewed several Secret Service officials, including Robert Engel, who was Mr. Trump’s senior Secret Service agent on Jan. 6, 2021, as well as the driver of the president’s vehicle in the procession. .

“We have learned additional information, and at some point we plan to use it,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and committee chair, said of Mr. Engel’s testimony.

In her public testimony, Ms. Hutchinson said she learned from Mr. Ornato of a stunning scene in the back of the presidential vehicle on January 6, shortly after Mr. Trump gave a speech at the Ellipse outside the White House. She testified that Mr. Ornato told her that Mr. Trump tried to force the Secret Service to drive him to the Capitol to join his supporters. In his account, Mr. Ornato said that Mr. Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the armored vehicle.

Ms Hutchinson also said Mr Ornato told her the president had “rushed” Mr Engel. Mr. Engel, Ms. Hutchinson said, was present when Mr. Ornato told her the story and did not correct Mr. Ornato’s account.

Secret Service officials said Mr. Ornato, Mr. Engel and the driver of the vehicle are prepared to testify that some details of this account are incorrect. Officials do not dispute that Mr. Trump angrily demanded to be taken to the Capitol, but they deny that there was a physical altercation.

Committee members argued they would know little about Mr. Trump’s actions in the SUV without Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and member of the committee, wrote on Twitter in June, “There seems to be a common thread here…Tony Ornato likes to lie.”

The committee obtained more than 1.5 million pages of Secret Service documents and communications in response to a subpoena. The communications explain how Secret Service personnel attempted to work out a route to take Mr. Trump to the Capitol in the SUV and how those plans were ultimately pushed back amid the chaos.

Secret Service personnel initially attempted to accommodate Mr. Trump’s wishes, but agency supervisors expressed concern and District of Columbia police refused to block intersections for his motorcade as a crowd of his supporters began to attack and injure dozens of policemen. according to the communications, which were described by two people familiar with their content.

Mr. Engel broke the news to Mr. Trump inside the vehicle, prompting an outburst of anger. Afterwards, a Secret Service supervisor followed up to ensure Mr. Trump would not join the crowd at the Capitol, according to the communications show.

Mr Thompson said the panel had finished with eight chapters of his report, which is due out in December and is the subject of much internal debate about the importance of focusing on Mr Trump’s actions versus failures security at the Capitol.

A subcommittee of four committee lawyers – Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming; Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland; Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California; and Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California — is also considering whether to issue criminal Justice Department referrals for Mr. Trump and some of his top allies.



nytimes Gt

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