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Kinzinger: Secret Service agents' Jan. 6 testimony may be 'criminal'

The Illinois Republican said that after last week’s Jan. 6 hearing, there are open questions about what agents previously told his House select committee.


The House Jan. 6 committee hearing last week opened a window into the chaos that preceded the Capitol attack, as well as the various figures who played roles in bringing it to fruition. 

Thanks to media reports and public hints from committee members, we knew to expect the hearing would focus heavily on Secret Service agents’ actions leading up to and during the siege of the U.S. Capitol. But the hearing raised more questions than answers, particularly after the committee shared warnings the Secret Service received about right-wing extremist groups planning to commit violence and possibly kill people on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Now, in light of revelations from last week's hearing, a member of the committee has come forward to say it’s possible Secret Service agents engaged in “very criminal activity” when they offered questionable testimony in previous sit-downs with the Jan. 6 committee to discuss their actions on and around the day of the attack. 

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., made those remarks Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room" in response to a question about Tony Ornato, a longtime Secret Service agent whom President Donald Trump appointed to be his White House deputy chief of staff in 2019. Ornato is alleged to have firsthand knowledge of Trump’s thinking and whereabouts the morning of Jan. 6. 

“There are some inconsistencies that we’re going to pursue," Kinzinger told host Wolf Blitzer, adding: “There is something going on at the Secret Service, either pure incompetence all the way on the scale to potentially very criminal activity or just having a preference for one side or the other."

And I agree! 

Kinzinger’s choice to make those remarks after being asked about Ornato could be a clue about what’s going on behind the scenes with the committee and its people of interest.  

To refresh your memory: Ornato reportedly testified before the committee in January and March. This was before former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified at a public committee hearing in June — before Hutchinson publicly alleged that she had heard Trump was irate when Secret Service agents refused to drive him to the Capitol on Jan. 6 as violence was unfolding. And before Hutchinson publicly alleged Secret Service agents knew Trump supporters were armed at the rally that immediately preceded the attack.

(Check out this live blog post I wrote during the last hearing about White House security officials’ worry that Trump’s appearance alongside deadly rioters would, by definition, solidify the violence as a coup.)

The Secret Service denied some parts of Hutchinson’s testimony over the summer. Ornato served as Secret Service assistant director after his role as a Trump White House deputy chief of staff. He resigned from the Secret Service in August. Kinzinger has publicly said the committee believes Ornato is a source feeding reporters info to try to discredit Hutchinson.

But documents the committee shared last week largely support Hutchinson’s claims. My MSNBC colleague Hayes Brown wrote at the time about why those documents could be bad news for Ornato. (Hint, hint: It has to do with potentially lying to federal investigators.)

There’s also the lingering question of precisely how — and at whose instruction — tranches of Jan. 6-related texts Secret Service agents were asked to preserve were deleted, reportedly irretrievably. There’s no telling where pulling on that string will lead, but in light of the information unearthed last week, Kinzinger and the committee are clearly champing at the bit to question Secret Service agents and those connected to them, including Ornato.

“They have made it clear through anonymous sources that they’re willing to come in and testify,” Kinzinger told CNN on Monday. "We want to hear them again. We want to talk to them, and it’s going to be under oath."