Troubling actions by Secret Service agents linked to the Jan. 6 insurrection raise concerns about possible “obstruction of justice,” Brookings Institute fellow Norm Eisen said Sunday.
Eisen, a White House ethics lawyer in the Obama administration, was part of a panel discussion on CNN addressing the disclosure that the Secret Service had deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, which could be important in the ongoing investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempt to reverse his election defeat.
But the deleted texts are just part of the disturbing Secret Service story, Eisen said.
He pointed to agents behind the scenes deriding bombshell testimony last month before the House Jan. 6 committee by Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Hutchinson testified that Tony Ornato, an agent who also served as White House deputy chief of staff for operations, told her that Trump had lunged for the steering wheel of the presidential limo on Jan. 6 because he wanted to be taken to the Capitol after he told his supporters to march there and “fight like hell.”
Agent Bobby Engel then grabbed Trump’s arm to stop him from interfering with the driver, Ornato recounted, according to Hutchinson.
The Secret Service said it would issue a statement responding to Hutchinson’s testimony, but hasn’t yet done so, nearly three weeks later. Unnamed Secret Service sources told reporters that agents would testify under oath contradicting Hutchinson, which also hasn’t happened.
“I think that the questions” about the Secret Service “have a larger significance than just whether data were lost or not,” Eisen said.
“I’m very concerned that after Cassidy Hutchinson testified, that devastating blockbuster testimony about Donald Trump’s anger that he couldn’t go to the Capitol, that some in the Secret Service”— Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel —“seem to be part of an anonymous whisper campaign disagreeing with her story,” he added.
“Then there have been other witnesses who have come forward and pushed back on that, including a member” of the Metropolitan Police Department, who reportedly backed up Hutchinson’s account, Eisen said. “And now we find out that documents may be missing from the critical days.”
“I think it needs to be looked at [for] possible legal issues, including was there any intentional effort to obstruct justice here as part of Donald Trump’s Secret Service agents being too close to Donald Trump?” Eisen asked.
“We don’t know the answer,” Eisen added. “But that needs to get a hard look from the [Secret] Service, from Congress, and from the Department of Justice.”
Were the agents “part of an effort to intimidate Cassidy Hutchinson? We need answers,” he added.