Secret Service officials to testify before House Jan. 6 committee, sources say
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is planning to interview key Secret Service officials and agents in the coming weeks, two sources briefed on the ongoing investigation tell CBS News.
The committee will bring back former Secret Service Assistant Director Tony Ornato, who is now retired, and Robert Engel, former President Trump's lead Secret Service agent on Jan. 6. Both men have already been interviewed by the committee, but they were both mentioned in blockbuster public testimony by former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson.
Hutchinson testified on June 28 that Ornato told her that the president became "irate" on Jan. 6 when he was told in his vehicle that he could not go to the Capitol. Hutchinson testified that Ornato told her Trump said something to the effect of "I'm the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now." Hutchinson also testified Ornato said that when Trump was told he had to return to the White House, he reached up to the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel, prompting Engel to grab his arm, and that then Trump used his free hand to lunge toward Engel. She said Engel was in the room when Ornato told her this and he did not dispute it.
A source close to the Secret Service told confirmed to CBS News that Engel and the driver were prepared to testify under oath that neither man was physically attacked or assaulted by Trump and that the former president never lunged for the steering wheel of the vehicle. The source did not dispute that Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol or his language.
Katie Driscoll, an attorney for Ornato, said in a statement to CBS News that "Mr. Ornato continues to cooperate in the Jan. 6 select committee's investigation."
CNN was the first to report the planned interviews.
Other witnesses who will testify in the coming weeks include Kimberly Cheatle, the current Secret Service director who served as assistant director of protective operations on Jan. 6; Anthony Guglielmi, current chief of communications; Timothy Giebels, the lead of former Vice President Mike Pence's security detail; and the unnamed driver of Trump's vehicle on that day.
It's not yet clear if the former and current Secret Service officials will testify before the committee in a public setting or behind closed doors.
Cheatle and Engel were among those whose phones were turned over to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, as part of DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari's investigation into missing Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021. The agents' text messages were previously subpoenaed by the inspector general and the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot.
The committee has issued a subpoena to the former president, as the committee's end-of-year deadline to complete its work rapidly approaches. Trump has not yet publicly responded.
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