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Former Trump deputy chief of staff Ornato, a key witness on Jan. 6, to appear before House committee


WASHINGTON — Tony Ornato, who served as deputy White House chief of staff under Donald Trump, is expected to appear Tuesday for an interview before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, a person familiar with the panel’s plans said.

Ornato is considered a key witness on the events surrounding the Capitol riot and will likely be questioned about testimony from 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 down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.

Ornato’s attorney, Kate Driscoll, did not specifically address his appearance Tuesday, but 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.

Officials from the Secret Service have questioned Hutchinson’s testimony, prompting the committee to bring some of them back for questioning under oath. Ornato has already testified in front of the committee, but Hutchinson’s testimony prompted the committee to call him back again.

After serving 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 the former president’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 worked as 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.

Although Conway was not working for Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, The Washington Post, citing 15 Trump advisers, members of Congress, GOP officials and others, reported that she called an aide who was with the president that day and said she was joining others in urging Trump 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.



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