New witnesses confirm ‘heated’ discussion between Trump and Secret Service agent on Jan. 6
The House committee investigating Jan. 6 announced Thursday that it has interviewed multiple witnesses who corroborated elements of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s explosive testimony on June 28.
Hutchinson had told the panel she was informed about a clash between then-President Trump and a Secret Service agent inside a vehicle after his Jan. 6, 2021, rally at the Ellipse near the White House. The president, she said, allegedly lunged toward the steering wheel and attacked the agent after his detail refused to take him to the Capitol with his supporters.
The witnesses didn’t verify those elements in her testimony, which has been disputed by Secret Service officials, but did confirm that a heated argument occurred over where the president was being taken.
“Even though he understood many of his supporters were armed, the president was still adamant to go to the Capitol when he got off the stage at the Ellipse, but his Secret Service detail was equally determined to not let him go,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said. “That led to a heated argument with the detail that delayed the departure of the motorcade to the White House.”
Luria noted that the panel has “evidence from multiple sources regarding an angry exchange in the presidential SUV, including testimony we will disclose today from two witnesses who confirmed that a confrontation occurred.”
She described the first witness as “a former White House employee with national security responsibilities” who spoke to Deputy Chief of Staff Anthony Ornato and Trump’s lead Secret Service agent, Robert Engel.
“This employee told us that Mr. Ornato said that the president was ‘irate’ when Mr. Engel refused to drive him to the Capitol,” Luria said. “Mr. Engel did not refute what Mr. Ornato said.”
The second witness was retired Sgt. Mark Robinson of the Washington, D.C., Metro Police Department, who was assigned to Trump’s motorcade on Jan. 6, and sat in the lead vehicle with a Secret Service agent, also known as a “TS agent.”
Robinson said he was told “the president was upset, ... adamant about going to the Capitol” and “there was a heated discussion about that.” The term “heated,” he said, was used by the TS agent who described the incident to him.
Luria said the panel is also aware of accounts detailing the incident in the presidential SUV circulating “widely” among Secret Service agents. The committee has subpoenaed the Secret Service, and Luria acknowledged that “certain Secret Service witnesses have now retained new private counsel.”
“We anticipate further testimony under oath and other new information in the comings weeks,” Luria said.
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