WASHINGTON — Speaking to a group of reporters on Wednesday, House Select Committee Charman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said that no Secret Service agent had corroborated the blockbuster testimony of former assistant to chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson.
Hutchinson testified on a number of cases when it came to Donald Trump's decision to ignore those who couldn't make it through the magnetometers because they weren't there to kill him. That was echoed by Trump in his speech where he asked the Secret Service to let people in. In another incident, she said that deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato told her of an incident in the car with Trump in which he lunged at the agent and tried to grab the steering wheel.
When asked about Ornato's testimony this week, Thompson told reporters, "I don't think there's anything in the committee's mind that changed from Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony."
According to Hutchinson's testimony: “The President reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said ‘Sir; you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.’ Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel."
Hutchinson then told the Committee that Ornato told her this story once they had returned to the White House. Engel "did not correct or disagree with any part of the story."
Ornato had previously said that he doesn't "remember" the discussion. Thompson didn't reveal whether the second round of questioning before the committee jogged Ornato's memory.
Yet, when asked if "anyone, or any of the Secret Service agents" had confirmed her testimony, Thompson said they had not. The committee called for text messages and information from the Secret Service on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, but all of the tests were "accidentally" deleted. The Department of Homeland Security's Trump-appointed inspector general pulled the plug on the retrieval of the texts.
Trump has denounced what Hutchinson said, giving excuses for how he couldn't have lunged at the agent, but his facts proved to be false. There were only two other people than Trump in the car: Secret Service agent Bobby Engel, and the agent driving the car. Ornato was the person who relayed the story to Hutchinson about the incident. He has since retired from the Secret Service and retained his own attorney.
Thompson also told reporters that the goal is to be done this week with the report, but he isn't certain whether that was possible. He said it all comes down to the deadline of the printer.
He also said that there is some information that they've received, "that we'll have to make a decision as to what we do with it. Do we make a criminal referral for some of it? Do we make an ethical referral?"
He also made it clear that he's not concerned about Republicans retaliating against the committee and doing an investigation of the investigation, because "everything in the report has been fact-checked many times."
Republicans have also said that they want to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to uncover why she didn't do more to protect the Capitol on Jan. 6. Donald Trump has implied that it was her fault that there was not a larger security presence there and that he told her that she should have more. The committee's report doesn't confirm that, Thompson said — and there's plenty of evidence to show that it isn't true.
Republicans would have to be careful as an investigation would likely show that there was a failure in the chain of information when the FBI, Homeland Security, and Secret Service warned the White House.