A surprise hearing by the partisan House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot featured testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson that included allegations that former President Donald Trump had physically assaulted Secret Service agents and attempted to seize the steering wheel of a presidential vehicle he was riding in.
The committee never reached out to the Secret Service ahead of the hearing to corroborate and verify Hutchinson’s explosive claims, however, an unnamed source with “knowledge of the matter” told the Washington Examiner.
The source said that Hutchinson’s testimony was the first time that anybody at the agency had heard the allegations that Trump had physically attacked an agent and grabbed the steering wheel of the armored SUV he was riding in along with his security detail.
Secret Service was not approached before Hutchinson’s testimony
That report from the Examiner appears to coincide with a report from Politico that cited a Secret Service spokesman as saying that the House committee had not reached out to the agency at least 10 days before Hutchinson’s testimony to confirm or corroborate her claims, much less request the agents implicated in her allegations appear before the committee to testify for themselves.
“We were not asked to reappear before the Committee in response to yesterday’s new information and we plan on formally responding on the record,” agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the outlet. “We have and will continue to make any member of the Secret Service available.”
The Examiner noted Hutchinson testified how on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021, as the riot raged at the Capitol building, she had been told by Tony Ornato, then the deputy chief of staff of operations, of how Trump had demanded he be taken to the Capitol following his rally at the Ellipse and had become enraged when his Secret Service detail refused to do so and instead returned him to the White House.
She further asserted that, according to Ornato, Trump had tried to grab the wheel of the presidential SUV and engaged in a physical altercation with the head of his security detail, Robert Engel.
Secret Service driver and lead agent dispute account, are prepared to testify
That aspect of Hutchinson’s testimony was almost immediately disputed, and CNN correspondent Shimon Prokupecz tweeted, “A Secret Service official familiar with the matter told CNN that Tony Ornato denies telling Cassidy Hutchinson that the former president grabbed the steering wheel or an agent on his detail.”
Likewise, NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander wrote on Twitter, “A source close to the Secret Service tells me both Bobby Engel, the lead agent, and the presidential limousine/SUV driver are prepared to testify under oath that neither man was assaulted and that Mr. Trump never lunged for the steering wheel.”
And, for what it is worth, former President Trump himself disputed the claim in a post to his Truth Social account that read, “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.”
Ornato was “shocked” by the testimony of the alleged altercation
Fox News reported that an unnamed source “close to Ornato” said the official had been “shocked” to hear Hutchinson’s testimony about the alleged steering wheel incident and had never told her about anything of the sort. The source further noted that both Ornato and lead agent Engels had previously testified behind closed doors to the committee and neither had said anything about an alleged physical altercation inside the presidential vehicle.
An anonymous source with the Secret Service also told Fox News that while Hutchinson was correct that Trump had become “irate” when agents refused to take him to the Capitol, the allegations regarding the assault and grabbing of the steering wheel were simply not true.