Secret Service flagged White House visit by Proud Boys leader ahead of Jan 6

Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato claimed not to be familiar with the extremist leader

Andrew Feinberg
Friday 30 December 2022 18:08 GMT
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Transcripts of depositions released by the House January 6 select committee show the Secret Service notified White House leaders after Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was admitted onto the 18-acre complex for a tour.

Mr Tarrio, who is currently on trial for seditious conspiracy related to his group’s alleged role in the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814, attended a tour of the executive mansion on 12 December 2020, the same day he vandalised a Black Lives Matter sign by setting it ablaze after stealing it from a Black church.

At the time, his status as chairman of the pro-Trump extremist group was widely known, and a House January 6 committee transcript of an interview with ex-White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato shows his entry onto the White House grounds was noted and relayed to agents on then-president Donald Trump’s protective detail by the Secret Service Protective Intelligence Division.

A Secret Service supervisor forwarded the email noting Mr Tarrio’s visit to Mr Ornato, who was a Secret Service special agent who had been detailed to the Executive Office of the President as Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Operations.

The email informed him that the Secret Service Joint Operations Centre had been notified of Mr Tarrio’s participation in a White House tour that morning.

Enrique Tarrio attends a rally in Portland, Oregon in August 2019 (Noah Berger)

“The individual is the leader of the Proud Boys. There is no known media coverage at this point,” it said.

Under questioning by committee investigators, Mr Ornato said he had not been aware of who Mr Tarrio was at the time, but said he had become aware by the time of his sit-down with the panel.

“And, at the time, I probably – I didn't – I wasn't aware of all the groups and everything back then, as I am more familiar with them now. However, if it was relayed to me that that's who that particular person was, I would've made the chief of staff aware that this had taken place that day,” he said.

By late 2020, the violent, all-male extremist group Mr Tarrio led was well-known for their appearances at pro-Trump rallies and protests across the US.

And the 12 December 2020 tour Mr Tarrio attended was months after Mr Trump had personally called out the group to “stand back and stand by” during his first debate with Joe Biden.

Asked if he knew who the Proud Boys were as a group at that time, Mr Ornato told the panel: “I don’t recall”.

“There was so many groups. I mean, I could've known at the time. I just don't recall this specific group ... I don't recall al the groups that I knew or didn't know,” he said, though he did manage to recall the name of the left-wing group known as “code pink”.

Trump refuses to denounce white supremacism and instead tells Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by'

Mr Ornato was also asked about another email sent 20 minutes later between members of Mr Trump’s protective detail asking why it wasn’t brought to the attention of Mr Trump’s detail that Mr Tarrio had been admitted into the White House.

But under questioning, he told the panel he didn’t have any memory of speaking about Mr Tarrio’s admission with anyone.

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