During the Jan. 6 hearing on Thursday, testimony from a former White House employee and a Secret Service detail said then-President Trump was adamant about going to the Capitol after the Jan. 6 rally, and there was a heated exchange among agents.
- 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. That led to a heated argument with the detail that delayed the departure of the motorcade to the White House. We have 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.
The first witness is a former White House employee with national security responsibilities. After seeing the initial violence at the Capitol on TV, the individual went to see Tony Ornato, the deputy chief of staff in his office. Mr. Ornato was there with Bobby Engel, the President's lead Secret Service agent. This employee told us that Mr. Ornato said that the President was, quote, "irate" when Mr. Engel refused to drive him to the Capitol. Mr. Engel did not refute what Mr. Ornato said.
The second witness is retired Sergeant Mark Robinson of the DC Police Department, who was assigned to the president's motorcade that day. He sat in the lead vehicle with the Secret Service agent responsible for the motorcade, also called the TS agent. Here's how Sergeant Robinson remembered the exchange.
- Was there any description of what was occurring in the car?
MARK ROBINSON: No, only that on-- the only description I received was that the President was upset and was adamant about going to the Capitol. And there was a heated discussion about that.
- And when you say heated, is that your word or is that the word that was described by the TS agent?
MARK ROBINSON: No, a word described by the TS agent, meaning that the President was upset and he was saying there was a heated argument or discussion about going to the Capitol.
- About how many times, would you say, you've been part of that motorcade with the President?
MARK ROBINSON: Ha-ha, probably over a hundred times.
- And in that hundred times have you ever witnessed another discussion of an argument or heated discussion with the President, where the President was contradicting where he was supposed to go or what the Secret Service believed was safe?
MARK ROBINSON: No.
- Like other witnesses, Sergeant Robinson also testified that he was aware that individuals in the crowd were armed.
MARK ROBINSON: Yes, I believe he was on special events channel. And I was monitoring the traffic, and so I could hear some of the units pointing out to individuals that there were individuals along Constitution Avenue that were armed, that were up in the trees. And I can hear the units responding to those individuals. So there's always a concern when there's a POTUS in the area.
- And like other witnesses, Sergeant Robinson told us that the President still wanted to travel to the Capitol even after returning to the White House.
- So at the end of the speech, what was the plan supposed to be?
MARK ROBINSON: So at the end of the speech, we do know that while inside the limo, the President was still adamant about going to the Capitol. That's been relayed to me by the TS agent. And so we did park the Ellipse, and we responded back to the White House. However, we, at the motorcade-- because the motorcade was placed on standby. And so we were told to stand by on the West Exec until they confirmed whether or not the President was going to go to the Capitol. And so I may have waited, I would just estimate maybe 45 to-- 45 minutes to an hour waiting for Secret Service to make that decision.
- The motorcade waited at the White House for more than 45 minutes before being released. The committee is also aware that accounts of the angry confrontation in the presidential SUV have circulated widely among the Secret Service since January 6. Recent disclosures have also caused the committee to subpoena yet further information from the Secret Service, which we've begun to receive and will continue to assess. The committee is also aware that certain Secret Service witnesses have now retained new private counsel.