There’s a new twist to Trump’s uninvited visit to St. John’s Lafayette Square to hold aloft a Bible.
The photo-op at the Episcopal church was designed and executed by a member of the Secret Service on temporary leave as a political appointee in the White House. It is unprecedented for the Secret Service to approve such an appointment.
The Secret Service also took the unprecedented step of allowing the former detail leader to temporarily leave his job to become a White House political adviser. Anthony Ornato was hired as White House deputy chief of staff earlier this year. In that role, he helped coordinate a controversial June photo opportunity in which Trump strode defiantly across Lafayette Square to pose with a Bible after the park was forcibly cleared of peaceful protesters.
Ornato also helped coordinate numerous rallies across the country during the pandemic, per Trump’s wishes. The mass gatherings were blamed for increasing the spread of the coronavirus in some of the communities where they took place and left many in the ranks of the Secret Service infected or exposed.
Ornato will be leaving the White House and is slated to return to the Secret Service to become the assistant director overseeing the agency’s Rowley Training Center, according to the people familiar with the changes, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe personnel decisions. The posting is prestigious but outside of the president’s immediate protection team.
Meanwhile, some well-respected supervisory agents who worked on the protective detail for Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, during the Obama administration are set to join the presidential protection team come Jan. 20.
Trump’s announcement of Ornato’s appointment as a deputy chief of staff, December 7, 2019:
The United States Secret Service Deputy Assistant Director, Anthony Ornato, will become my new Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. I have worked with Tony for 3 years – he will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Dan Walsh for his great service, and congratulations to Tony!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2019