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Tony Ornato, who was an assistant director at the Secret Service, said his departure was planned more than a year ago, before explosive congressional testimony this summer about former President Donald Trump‘s actions on Jan. 6.
“I did retire today to pursue a career in the private sector,” Ornato told NBC News. “I retired from the U.S. Secret Service after more than 25 years of faithful service to my country, including serving the past five presidents. I long-planned to retire and have been planning this transition for more than a year.”
Secret Service Special Agent Kevin Helgert said Ornato retired “in good standing.”
Ornato led Trump’s protective detail and made the unusual move to a political position as the White House deputy chief of staff for operations in 2019 before he returned to the Secret Service to help oversee its office of training.
Ornato became a key figure in the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation into the insurrection when former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified at a public hearing that Ornato had described to her an incident inside the armored SUV carrying Trump on Jan. 6, 2021. Hutchinson said Ornato described Trump’s lunging at the driver and insisting they go to the Capitol, where his supporters were gathering. Hutchinson’s account has been disputed by some people familiar with the matter.
His departure from the Secret Services comes amid other high-level changes at the agency. James Murray announced his retirement as director last month, before the congressional uproar over missing Secret Service text messages from Jan. 6 became public. President Joe Biden last week appointed Kim Cheatle as Murray’s successor.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a member of the Jan. 6 committee, said in an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the panel was looking into the missing text messages and would likely be able “to get answers to that” by the time it restarts public hearings next month.
Ornato has already testified to the House panel behind closed doors, according to an aide.