Is the Secret Service covering up on January 6? Agency under scrutiny as questions pile up

meIs there something wrong afoot in the elite agency tasked with safeguarding the life of President Joe Biden?

Adam Kinzinger certainly thinks so.

During an appearance on CNN the situation room Earlier this week, the Republican congressman from Illinois was discussing whether the January 6 House select committee will seek additional testimony from Secret Service agents who served in former President Donald Trump’s protection team before and during the riots. on Capitol Hill.

Committee members have been considering whether to force a former agent turned Trump White House aide, Tony Ornato, to testify for months, ever since one of his former colleagues, former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, said that he told her that Mr. Trump became violent when he was told he could not accompany the riotous mob he had summoned to Washington as they marched on Capitol Hill on his orders.

Shortly after Ms. Hutchinson testified under oath, numerous White House reporters were contacted by anonymous sources to reject her claims. The sources, who were described as close to the Secret Service, said Ornato would testify that there was no such altercation between Trump and any of the agents assigned to protect him. But in the weeks since, multiple sources, some identified by his name, have corroborated his testimony.

Kinzinger suggested that the inconsistency of Ornato, who has yet to make good on his promise to contradict Hutchinson’s sworn testimony, could be part of something larger and more nefarious.

“Something is going on in the Secret Service, whether it’s sheer incompetence, on the scale of potentially very criminal activity, or just having a preference for one side or the other,” he said.

But it’s not just Ornato’s apparent false statements that have observers worried about the agency tasked with protecting presidents.

Even before the attack on Capitol Hill, Biden advisers harbored concerns that the Presidential Protection Division (PPD) was overflowing with agents who would remain loyal to the man he defeated in the 2020 election.

According to the Washington Post, During the transition following the Biden election, the agency began rotating senior officers who had served in his vice presidency back to the PPD. Such personnel moves are not unheard of, especially when an incoming president has been a service protégé in the past.

But the changes also came at a time when the service was under scrutiny for actions that made it appear politically aligned with Trump.

It was Mr. Ornato who was also at the center of that firestorm. A well-regarded special agent, he turned heads in 2020 when he was granted a special waiver to be seconded to the Executive Office of the President as the White House Deputy Chief of Staff.

In that role, the nonpartisan official took on the role of one of Trump’s top political advisers, responsible for coordinating the then-president’s movements and organizing White House events, such as the infamous June 2020 photo op in which Trump held a bible aloft outside a Lafyette Square church that had been forcibly cleared of peaceful civil rights protesters.

A former Trump confidant said the independent the decision to bring Mr. Ornato into a political position was typical of how the former president co-opts and compromises people and institutions.

The former White House aide said they weren’t surprised by Ornato’s rush to defend Trump after Hutchinson’s testimony seemed to hurt him. They also said they were also not surprised by the witnesses who confirmed his testimony and suggested the agency should have known he would no longer be reliable as a witness once he took a job in Trump’s political orbit and should never have allowed him back. to the agency after Trump’s term ended.

Several former Trump administration employees and people familiar with Secret Service operations also said the loss of text messages from the days leading up to and during the Capitol riots are symptoms of the same politicization virus that Trump infected the service with. hire Ornament.

Agency officials have claimed the messages were leaked during a previously planned device upgrade, but former Secret Service agents and people familiar with the agency’s capabilities have expressed skepticism about that explanation.

Concerns about whether top agents deliberately redacted the texts after they were subpoenaed by the House select committee on January 6 have also been compounded by reports alleging that the Department of Homeland Security’s own inspector general stepped in to avoid actions that could have retrieved the messages.

DHS Supervisor Joseph Cuffari is a Trump appointee who has remained in the post despite an ongoing investigation into whether he acted improperly to hinder investigations into the agency’s response to Jan. 6.

In August, the independent reported that Biden has not ruled out using his authority to oust Cuffari, who has also come under scrutiny for allegedly lying to Congress about a 2013 investigation into his conduct during his confirmation process.

At the time, a source familiar with internal White House processes said administration officials were “investigating the facts and the situation surrounding the White House.” [Mr] Cufarri, following the recent revelations about the text messages and the allegations about his past conduct.”

Aides say Biden has been reluctant to weigh in on Cuffari out of a desire not to interfere with the government’s independent inspectors general, particularly as his predecessor did so to protect himself and his allies.

But the former Trump aide who was unsurprised by Ornato’s alleged duplicity said Biden and his advisers are making a grave mistake in exercising such leniency for their own good.

“Either they don’t understand that Trump co-opted a significant part of our nation’s law enforcement apparatus, or they understand but have no idea how to deal with it in a way that doesn’t make them seem as cowardly as he is. ,” they said. “But if they don’t get it, it could get very complicated in two years.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *