Anthony “Tony” Ornato is a top official in the U.S. Secret Service whose name has become a focal point of discussion in the January 6 hearings in Congress.
His full name is Anthony M. Ornato, but he is often called Tony Ornato. He is a decorated Secret Service official who used to be a police officer. Over the years, he has held many important positions related to protecting the president.
He was reassigned to a training post outside the White House detail before President-elect Biden took office after Biden’s “allies” raised concerns that some agents were too close to President Trump, according to a December 2020 story in The Washington Post.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ornato Denies a Former White House Aide’s Claim That Trump Tried to Grab a Steering Wheel, Reports Say
Ornato’s name came up in the January 6 hearings on June 28, 2022, when Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified that President Trump demanded that Secret Service agents drive him to the Capitol to join protesters and, when they would not, lunged at an agent and attempted to grab the wheel of the SUV they were in. She said that Ornato told her that story.
However, Fox News reported on June 29 that, according to a source close to Ornato, he said he did not tell Hutchinson that information.
Fox News reported that Ornato was “shocked” when Hutchinson made the allegation during the hearing, which he was watching. According to Fox, Robert “Bobby” Engel, the Secret Service agent in the SUV, also disputed the account. According to a June 28 tweet by Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig, sources told her that both Ornato and Engel “offer to testify under oath” to deny Hutchinson’s testimony.
They already gave statements to the committee and were not asked about the steering wheel story, Fox reported. A source also told Fox that Trump was angry inside the vehicle and was yelling that he wanted to go to the Capitol, but that he never grabbed the steering wheel.
NBC News also reported that Ornato and Engel previously testified behind closed doors.
Trump denied the allegation on Truth Social.
“I hardly know who this person, Cassidy Hutchinson, is, other than I heard very negative things about her (a total phony and ‘leaker’),” Trump posted on Truth Social. He claimed she wanted to come to Florida to work for him but “personally turned her request down. Why did she want to go with us if she felt we were so terrible?”
Her Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine in order to steer it to the Capitol Building is ‘sick’ and fraudulent, very much like the Unselect Committee itself — Wouldn’t even have been possible to do such a ridiculous thing. Her story of me throwing food is also false…and why would SHE have to clean it up, I hardly knew who she was?
Leonnig tweeted: “Sources tell me: @SecretService agents dispute that Donald Trump assaulted any agent or tried to grab the steering wheel on Jan 6. They agree Trump was furious about not being abel to go to Capitol with his supporters. They offer to testify under oath.”
According to Politico, White House staff asked Ornato “if it would be feasible for the president to travel from the Ellipse to the Capitol building. Ornato referred the staff to Engel, who was one of the top Secret Service agents responsible for Trump’s safety.”
2. Ornato, Who Was Preferred by Trump for the Position, Raised Concerns About Weapons at the Capitol
According to Axios, Hutchinson also testified that Ornato tried to warn Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the potential for violence at the Capitol but Meadows disregarded him.
“I remember distinctly [Meadows] not looking up from his phone,” she said, according to Axios, when Oranto described the weapons brought to the rally.
“I remember Tony finishing his explanation and it taking a few seconds for Mark to say something. I almost said, ‘Mark, did you hear him?’ And then Mark chimed in and was like, ‘Alright, anything else?’ Still looking down at his phone,” she testified, alleging that Meadows “almost had a lack of reaction” when she told him that Ornato believed the Capitol police were getting “overrun” by rioters.
According to his biography on the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation website, Ornato “currently serves as the Assistant Director of the United States Secret Service Office of Training.”
In this position, the bio says, “he administers the enterprise-wide oversight of structured policies and programs associated with Secret Service training and employee development.”
He recently “was detailed to the White House and served as an Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations,” the website says.
Hugo Lowell, a journalist with the Guardian, tweeted, “Trump installed Tony Ornato — his former lead US Secret Service agent — as deputy chief of staff for operations in part bc FLOTUS’ then chief preferred him over Max Miller. But the move unnerved West Wing aides who knew the Secret Service was supposed to be non-political.”
The Guardian reported that Biden brought on new Secret Service agents when he after he was elected president because he did not want to be surrounded by Trump loyalists.
That article said that the Secret Service “had permitted former detail leader Anthony Ornato to temporarily leave his role and serve as White House deputy chief of staff.”
The story noted that Ornato “was among the coordinators of the June photo op for which Trump marched through Washington DC’s Lafayette Square to stand with a Bible – after peaceful protesters were forced from the area by troops on federal order.”
“Ornato also assisted in the planning of many Trump campaign rallies,” according to The Guardian.
3. In the White House, Ornato Was Responsible for the Executive Office of the President
In the White House, Ornato “was responsible for managing the overall administrative, technology, security, and military support structure for the President of the United States, as well as the day-to-day management of the White House Complex, the Executive Office of the President, Presidential facilities, and the President’s schedule and travel operations,” the bio says.
“In total, the organization includes approximately 5,000 employees, with an unclassified budget of approximately $800M.”
As Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Ornato “had authority over the budget, human resources, information technology (IT) systems, and facilities management of the Executive Office of the President; the Presidential Airlift Group (Air Force One); the Presidential Marine Helicopter Squadron (Marine One); Camp David; the White House Communications Agency; Presidential Continuity Policy, Plans and Requirements,” the bio continues.
4. Ornato Previously Was Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division & Previously Helped Protect the U.N. General Assembly
Ornato has held a series of other important positions. The bio explains:
Prior to his detail at the White House, Mr. Ornato served as the SES Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) of the Office of Investigations (INV). As the DAD, Mr. Ornato oversaw the foreign field offices as well as all headquarters divisions under INV, including the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). He was responsible for all investigative strategies as well as the implementation of investigative training at the National Computer Forensics Institute.
Mr. Ornato previously served as the SES Special Agent in Charge (SAIC) of the Presidential Protective Division (PPD). As the SAIC, Mr. Ornato directed all Presidential Protective Division operational strategies and is responsible for the protective methodology and procedures for the President and the First Family. In addition, he managed all personnel, operations, and a travel expense budget for the Presidential Protective Division. Prior to assuming the office, Mr. Ornato served as the SES DSAIC of the Presidential Protective Division, supervising the White House Security Branch which included physical protection of all events on the White House Complex.
Mr. Ornato has also held the positions of ASAIC and ATSAIC of the PPD, as well as ATSAIC of the New York Field Office. As ASAIC Ornato, he maintained responsibility for operations and career development of special agents and supervisors on PPD. ATSAIC Ornato was responsible for all protective operations in the New York Field Office’s district, including the U.N. General Assembly for three consecutive years.
5. Ornato Is a Former Connecticut Police Officer Who Was Awarded a Medal for Distinguished Public Service
Ornato got his start as a local police officer in Connecticut.
“Mr. Ornato has over 25 years of law enforcement experience, with over 23 years with the United States Secret Service and over 2 years as a City of Waterbury, CT police officer,” the bio says.
“He was commissioned as a Special Agent in 1997 and served as a criminal investigator in the New Haven Resident Office. Also, he has served on the Presidential Protective Division during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. ”
The bio continues:
Mr. Ornato holds a Bachelor and Master of Science Degree from the School of Forensic Science – University of New Haven (1995 & 1999) and a Master of Administrative Leadership from The University of Oklahoma (2016). He also holds a Key Executive Leadership Certificate from American University, Washington, D.C. and a Harvard Kennedy School General & Flag Officers Homeland Security Certificate from Harvard University, Boston, MA. In 2021, he was awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.