Anthony Ornato, Top Secret Service Official Sought by Investigators for Role in Jan. 6, Retires Unexpectedly

Anthony Ornato, Donald Trump's deputy chief of staff for operations, announced his retirement just two days before a planned interview with Inspector General investigators.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 6: Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. - Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
Donald Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images/Getty Images

Anthony Ornato, a top Secret Service official embroiled in the January 6 investigation, retired today, just two days before his planned interview with January 6 investigators. The Intercept obtained an email Ornato sent to the deputy director of the Secret Service just after 1 p.m. announcing his retirement as of the close of business on August 29.

“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.

Ornato had finally agreed to an interview with Department of Homeland Security investigators on August 31 after multiple attempts to arrange one. According to a memo sent by the DHS Office of Inspector General to the head of the Secret Service, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and DHS general counsel, the inspector general had been attempting to interview Ornato since June 29 and spent all of July and much of August following up.

For example, Ornato cited vacation as a reason he couldn’t attend an interview. “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.”

This is one in a string of access issues the inspector general has experienced in relation to January 6, as The Intercept reported last week.

Ornato has indicated that he still intends to attend the interview, according to an email obtained by The Intercept, but since Ornato will be a private citizen, investigators won’t have testimonial subpoena authority to compel his cooperation.

Ornato was a longtime Secret Service agent before President Donald Trump took the unprecedented action of appointing him to a White House position as deputy chief of staff for operations.

The Intercept reported in July that the Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and 6, 2022, after they were requested by oversight officials. Congress had also sent document preservation requests to the Secret Service.


DHS Jan. 6 Investigators Raised Alarm About Being Stonewalled Last Year

Ornato may have played a key role in the insurrection at the Capitol. On January 6, he reportedly sought to relocate Vice President Mike Pence to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, which could have delayed the certification of the 2020 presidential election. 

According to explosive testimony from Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson to the House January 6 committee, Ornato told her that he was in the car with Trump when the president demanded to be driven to the Capitol, against advice, and allegedly lunged for the steering wheel.

Ornato has reportedly met with the January 6 committee twice, in January and March, as part of its investigation, discussing Trump’s knowledge of Pence’s location during the unrest on January 6.

After President Joe Biden entered the White House, Ornato was moved to the role of assistant director of the Secret Service’s Office of Training.

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