U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) speaks during the second public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, at Capitol Hill, in Washington, United States, on June 13, 2022.
Jonathan Ernest | Reuters
Presidential security officials at the center of a bombshell allegation regarding then-President Donald Trump’s request to visit the Capitol on Jan. 6 have retained the services of a private attorney, a committee member says. the House charged with investigating the riot.
“Some of the officers have said they will come and speak under oath,” select committee member Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday night after the panel’s final public hearing.
“They haven’t come and they recently retained a private attorney, which is unusual, but they have a right to do so,” Lofgren said.
She said those officers are Tony Ornato, then a senior Trump official who was also a Secret Service agent, and Robert Engel, the former head of Trump’s security service. The driver of the vehicle that drove Trump back to the White House after a rally that preceded the Capitol riot also retained the services of a private attorney, Lofgren said.
Those officials were cited by former White House official Cassidy Hutchinson in jaw-dropping sworn public testimony before the select committee last month.
Hutchinson described hearing Ornato on January 6, 2021, that Trump had pounced on Engel inside a presidential vehicle after being told the Secret Service would not be driving him to the U.S. Capitol after his rally.
“Tony described him as pissed,” she testified, adding that Trump apparently said something like, “I’m the effing president, take me to the Capitol now!”
Trump had grabbed the wheel of that vehicle, Hutchinson told Ornato, at which point Engel grabbed Trump’s arm and told him to stop. Trump “then used his free hand to lunge at Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson testified.
She noted that Engel was in the room when Ornato relayed this account, and that he didn’t deny it at the time and hasn’t since.
Former US President Donald Trump acknowledges people as he gets into his SUV in front of Trump Tower in New York, March 9, 2021.
Carlos Allegri | Reuters
But Trump quickly denied Hutchinson’s testimony, calling it “false” and saying it would have been impossible for him to reach the steering wheel.
Anonymous sources associated with the Secret Service then appeared to cast doubt on Hutchinson’s testimony through statements to numerous reporters.
NBC News, citing a source close to the agency, reported that Engel and the driver of the vehicle were prepared to testify under oath that Trump never drove. CNN reported that another Secret Service official said Ornato denied telling Hutchinson that Trump threw himself on the steering wheel or Engel.
Hutchinson’s attorney, Jody Hunt, responded on Twitter that his client “testified under oath and recounted what she was told. Those with knowledge of the episode should also testify under oath.”
To date, they have not, according to Lofgren.
Secret Service communications chief Anthony Guglielmi told CNBC that the agency is cooperating fully with the committee and will reiterate that cooperation in an upcoming statement from the director.
The committee member’s latest comments on the investigation came after the panel’s eighth public hearing into the initial findings of the year-long investigation into the Jan. 6 riot, when a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and delayed Congress from confirming President Joe Biden’s election victory. .
The hearing focused on Trump’s inaction for more than three hours during the riot, even as his staff, allies and family members pleaded with him to call out the crowd.
Committee members argued that Trump’s refusal to stop the riot was not just a “dereliction of duty” but a deliberate choice by a president who refused to admit he had lost the election and was determined to stop or disrupt the transfer of power.
The prime-time hearing also revealed other witness testimony that described a ‘heated argument’ that an ‘irritated’ Trump got into after learning he would not be driven to the Capitol that day. -the.
The committee said it will hold further hearings in September as it continues to gather evidence.
The hearing also came hours after NBC News and other outlets reported that the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog had opened a criminal investigation into the erasure of Secret Service communications around the time. time of the riot.
The Secret Service said some data was lost following a “system migration process” that began in January 2021 but was planned well in advance.
The select committee said Wednesday that the Secret Service redactions “could represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act.”