Secret Service Deputy Director Tony Ornato, a key figure in the House Jan. 6 Committee investigation, retired Monday "to pursue a career in the private sector" after "25 years of faithful service to my country," he said in a statement. In an unusual move, Ornato took a position as deputy White House chief of staff for operations — a political role — during the last two years of former President Donald Trump's presidency, then returned to the Secret Service last year. Before joining the White House he was head of Trump's protective detail.
Ornato gained national attention when former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson recounted in public testimony that Ornato told her Trump had tried to force his Secret Service detail to drive him to the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, siege by Trump supporters. "Although Ornato quickly signaled he was willing to testify in response to Hutchinson's account, he has yet to appear for a new interview with the select committee," Politico reports, citing two people familiar with the discussions. He testified before the committee twice earlier, in January and March.
The Secret Service is also embroiled in controversy over deleted text messages from dozens of officials' phones on and around Jan. 6, and Ornato retired just two days before a scheduled meeting with Homeland Security Department investigators who "had been attempting to interview Ornato since June 29 and spent all of July and much of August following up," The Intercept reports. "Ornato has indicated that he still intends to attend the interview," but since he "will be a private citizen, investigators won't have testimonial subpoena authority to compel his cooperation."
"The timing is suspect and certainly interesting," Olivia Troye, a national security aide to former Vice President Mike Pence, told CNN, adding that she is "very curious to see where his future employment will be."
Ornato said in his statement hat he "long-planned to retire and have been planning this transition for more than a year." He became eligible for retirement in July, a Secret Service spokesman said, and he is leaving as an agent in good standing. Secret Service director James Murray has also announced his retirement, but he temporarily put the departure on hold amid the various Jan. 6 controversies. President Biden has named Kimberly Cheatle the next director.