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Tipsheet

Timing of Secret Service Director's Departure Raises Questions

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The United States Secret Service abruptly announced the departure of Director James Murray on Thursday in a release that noted Murray's "32 years of dedicated service to our nation, 27 of which were with the Secret Service."

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Murray headed up the Secret Service since May 1, 2019, but his departure came as something of a surprise despite reports that the director "has been looking to retire 'for some time.'" Murray found his landing spot at social media company Snapchat, according to The Washington Post.

As CBS News and a handful of other mainstream outlets pointed out, the timing of Murray's resignation is complicated by the fact that his "departure comes amid continuing questions about an alleged altercation between former President Donald Trump and his security detail ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, detailed in explosive congressional testimony by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson last week."

In the widely-doubted testimony, Hutchinson claimed that the former president lunged from the backseat toward the agents driving "the beast" presidential limo and attempted to take control of the steering wheel in order to somewhat carjack his own vehicle and drive to the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

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But, as CBS noted, shortly after Hutchinson made her claim "a source close to the Secret Service told CBS News that the two agents who were in the vehicle are prepared to contradict Hutchinson's account under oath."

The Wall Street Journal reiterated in its coverage of Murray's departure that "Secret Service officials have challenged the allegation that Mr. Trump lunged at the steering wheel or assaulted an agent, and the agency said it would make available any personnel that the Jan. 6 committee requested to testify under oath in response."

And in its story on Murray's decision to leave, The Hill also noted that the Secret Service "has acknowledged Trump wanted to join his supporters at the Capitol, something the former president has indicated publicly, but the agency has denied Hutchinson’s account, which she heard second-hand, that Trump lunged at the wheel."

The references being made by media outlets between the quick willingness of Secret Service agents to contradict Hutchinson's testimony and the departure of the Secret Service director rose to the level of a question during Thursday's White House Press Briefing. 

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But the Biden administration sought to quash such speculation quickly. In response to the briefing room query, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted on Thursday that Murray's resignation and the Secret Service's dispute with the January 6 Committee's latest star witness were "not connected at all."

Murray's last day with the Secret Service will be July 30 and he's slated to begin with Snapchat's parent company Snap Inc. on August 1 as its chief security official.

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