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Jan. 6 Panel Interviews S.Service Agent11/30 06:17

   The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol 
interviewed former Secret Service agent Tony Ornato on Tuesday about Donald 
Trump's actions on the day of the insurrection, according to a person familiar 
with the matter.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on 
the U.S. Capitol interviewed former Secret Service agent Tony Ornato on Tuesday 
about Donald Trump's actions on the day of the insurrection, according to a 
person familiar with the matter.

   This was the third time the committee deposed Ornato, who also served as 
Trump's deputy chief of staff for operations. Lawmakers have for months sought 
his testimony to try to corroborate what other witnesses have said about 
Trump's actions on Jan. 6, 2021, according to the person, who was not 
authorized to speak publicly about closed-door depositions and requested 
anonymity.

   "This was an opportunity for him to clear the record," Rep. Bennie Thompson, 
D-Miss., the committee's chairman, told reporters Tuesday night. Thompson and 
other committee members had previously said Ornato and other Secret Service 
personnel have not been "forthcoming with respect to what actually happened" 
that day. It remains unclear if Ornato's hourslong testimony Tuesday shed any 
additional light on the disputed altercation.

   Former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified publicly over the summer 
about a conversation she had with Ornato at the White House on Jan. 6, 2021. 
She said Ornato recalled to her how Trump had lashed out and grabbed at the 
steering wheel of the presidential SUV being driven by agent Robert Engel when 
the Secret Service refused to let him go to the Capitol after a rally at the 
Ellipse.

   "The president said something to the effect of, 'I'm the effing president, 
take me up to the Capitol now,'" Hutchinson told lawmakers.

   "The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the 
steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said 'Sir, you need to take your 
hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the West Wing. We're not going 
to the Capitol.' Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby 
Engel," she testified.

   Secret Service officials quickly disputed the account from Hutchinson about 
a physical altercation. The officials did not dispute, however, that Trump 
angrily demanded to be taken to the Capitol to join a mob of his supporters who 
were marching there and ultimately breached the Capitol.

   "We had interviewed Mr. Ornato several times," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a 
member of the panel, said in response to questions about the veracity of 
Hutchinson's testimony. "His memory does not appear to be as precise as hers. 
We certainly would welcome them to come back if they wish to do that."

   Allies of Trump and his former chief of staff Mark Meadows also questioned 
some details of Hutchinson's testimony, much of which was secondhand 
information. Meadows' attorney, George Terwilliger, told The Associated Press 
in June that Hutchinson's testimony "could not withstand even five minutes of 
fundamental cross-examination."

   But several high-profile Republicans rallied to Hutchinson's defense, saying 
the young aide was known to be close to Meadows and often accompanied him in 
meetings.

   The committee is hoping Ornato's latest round of testimony can help clear up 
the conflicting reports about Trump's furious attempts to stay in power on the 
day of the insurrection. Lawmakers are also seeking Ornato's testimony as they 
dig deeper into what the Secret Service knew about the attack on the Capitol, 
including missing text messages between agents sent around that time.

   The nine-member panel has obtained more than 1 million pages of documents 
and communications from the agency as part of a subpoena. The material is 
expected to be included in a comprehensive report the committee is putting 
together and scheduled to release by the end of the year.

   Ornato's testimony also came a day after former Trump senior adviser 
Kellyanne Conway met with the committee. It is unclear what her interview could 
provide the committee as she had left the Trump White House well before the 
Jan. 6 attack.

 
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