WASHINGTON — Tony Ornato, who was deputy White House chief of staff under Donald Trump, is expected to appear Tuesday for an interview before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, a person familiar with the panel's plans said.
Ornato is considered a key witness to the events surrounding the Capitol riot and will most likely be questioned about the testimony of star witness Cassidy Hutchinson, who was an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Hutchinson testified over the summer that Ornato told her Trump became angry when his Secret Service detail refused to take him to the Capitol as his supporters descended on the building. She said Ornato told her Trump lunged at the steering wheel of the SUV he was in, demanding to be taken up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.
Ornato’s attorney, Kate Driscoll, did not specifically address his appearance Tuesday. She told NBC News, “Mr. Ornato continues to cooperate with the January 6th select committee’s investigation.”
Committee aides declined to comment on the expected interview, which was first reported by The New York Times.
Secret Service officials have questioned Hutchinson’s testimony, prompting the committee to bring some of them back for questioning under oath. Ornato has already testified, but Hutchinson’s testimony prompted the committee to call him back again.
After having served in the Trump White House, Ornato was an assistant director at the Secret Service until he left the agency in August for a job in the private sector.
Before Thanksgiving, committee investigators spoke to Bobby Engel, who led Trump’s protective detail. And at the beginning of November, they were scheduled to meet with a Secret Service agent who was in the lead car of Trump’s motorcade on the day of the riot.
Meanwhile, former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway met with the committee for nearly five hours Monday. Conway was a senior counselor to Trump from the beginning of his term through August 2020. She decided to leave the administration because, she said, she needed to focus on her family. She also was a campaign manager for Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.
Even though Conway was not working for Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, The Post, citing 15 Trump advisers, members of Congress, GOP officials and others, reported that she called an aide who was with him that day and said she was joining others in urging him to tell his supporters to stand down. Conway also told the aide that Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office called her asking for help getting Trump to call up the National Guard, The Post reported.
The committee is expected to release a final report about its investigation before the end of the year, before the new Congress convenes in January. The panel is not expected to exist in the new, GOP-controlled House next year.