During her testimony before the Jan. 6 committee this Tuesday, former top White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson alleged that former President Donald Trump lunged at a Secret Service agent who refused to take him to the Capitol on Jan. 6 just before the riot.
Republicans immediately dismissed Hutchinson's testimony as hearsay, but if the Secret Service agent in question, Robert Engel, was subpoenaed to testify and confirmed the story, it would no longer be hearsay, according to The Washington Post's Gillian Brockell, who says the White House scandals from the Clinton era provides the precedent for subpoenaing Secret Service agents.
"In 1998, three agents protecting President Bill Clinton were compelled to testify before a grand jury about the president’s affair with a young intern as he was being investigated by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr," Brockell writes. "The Clinton administration fought the move for months — a fight that made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Just four minutes before the scheduled testimony, then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist declined to stop it."
U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, the original judge in the case, explained the reasoning in a 10-page opinion.
“In the end, the policy arguments advanced by the Secret Service are not strong enough to overcome the grand jury’s substantial interest in obtaining evidence of crimes or to cause this court to create a new testimonial privilege," Johnson wrote. "Given this and the absence of legal support for the asserted privilege, this court will not establish a protective function privilege [against giving testimony].”
A three-judge panel of the DC appeals court noted that Secret Service agents do not sign non-disclosure agreements.
"We think it significant that the Secret Service does not require its agents to sign confidentiality agreements as a condition of employment; without such an agreement (or statute or rule), the Secretary of the Treasury would find it difficult by invoking the proposed privilege to prevent a former Secret Service agent from testifying, for at least two reasons. First, a former agent who is not bound by any agreement or rule will suffer no adverse consequences by cooperating in an investigation of the President; second, the Secretary of the Treasury has no way of knowing when such a cooperative former agent is about to testify," the panel ruled.
In 1998, the Secret Service argued the courts got it wrong after it lost in court.
"While we accept the decisions of the courts, and will comply with court orders, it remains our professional opinion that recognition of a protective function privilege is critical to our mission," the Secret Service said in a statement.
There are reports the Secret Service will "push back" against the testimony that the president assaulted an agent.
Read more at The Washington Post.