As a congressional watchdog calls for a new probe into allegations that former President Donald Trump regularly destroyed presidential records, the Jan. 6 committee has simultaneously discovered on Thursday that a series of critical gaps exist in White House call logs secured from the National Archives.
First reported by The New York Times, the gaps in the official White House telephone logs from Jan. 6, 2021, are not a complete surprise—Trump was well known to use his private cell phone or his staff’s cell phones when conducting affairs or speaking to aides, legislators, and others.
The Jan. 6 committee has not yet suggested that the omissions in the call logs are the result of any tampering on behalf of the former president. A committee spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment to confirm whether the logs it has received are all of the logs requested are just a portion of those records.
White House call logs itemize who has telephoned the White House or who called out and will also include, generally, the date, time, and length of a call.
The Jan. 6 committee has received a plethora of documents and testimony already confirming that Trump spoke to several key officials throughout Jan. 6, including one call made to then-Vice President Mike Pence and legislators like Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
The call to Lee was meant for Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. Lee passed his mobile phone to Tuberville and the Alabama lawmaker spoke to Trump for just under 10 minutes. Their discussion unfolded as the president’s supporters were storming the Capitol.
That entire exchange, however, did not occur on an official White House telephone, making the committee’s findings on Thursday all the more concerning.
CNN reported that sources who have reviewed a presidential diary from Jan. 6—also obtained by the Archives and shared with the committee—noted that it has “scant information and no record of phone calls for several hours” after Trump returned to the Oval Office up until he recorded a national address in the Rose Garden.
In addition to calls to Pence and Senator Lee, Trump also had a tense phone call with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on Jan. 6.
During Trump’s second impeachment, McCarthy told a fellow Republican lawmaker that when he finally reached Trump by phone during the assault, Trump was insistent that “antifa” had breached the complex.
McCarthy told Trump it was his supporters and Trump hung up in a huff.
Since then, McCarthy has aligned himself completely with the former president, refusing to cooperate with a voluntary request from Jan. 6 investigators issued weeks ago. The probe is now weighing whether to officially subpoena the House leader.
Doing so would be a historic move and an outcome the California Republican has arguably long courted. McCarthy was opposed to the formation of a Jan. 6 commission from the outset unless it promised to review other, unrelated external security threats posed to lawmakers and focused on intelligence failures of the U.S. Capitol Police.
He later refused to negotiate with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi over the committee’s membership. After his proposal to seat two staunch Trump allies on the committee, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio—who was, even then, considered to be a potential material witness to the overall probe—McCarthy took his ball and went home.
With negotiations killed, the House went forward and the committee was formed. The House Republican has since regularly opposed the committee’s work and has taken up keen alliances with the uber-conservative, pro-Trump, anti-Jan. 6 investigation House Freedom Caucus.
Though the gaps in the White House call logs obtained so far may correlate to Trump’s prolific use of unofficial cell phones, sources who reviewed the logs did say Thursday that at least one entry positively confirms Trump attempted to call Pence on the morning of Jan. 6 before the siege.
The official record does not reportedly show Pence answering, and the source said, according to CNN, that there is also no record showing Pence returned Trump’s call.
Interestingly, Keith Kellogg, Pence’s national security adviser at the time, informed the committee during recent closed-door testimony that Pence and Trump spoke on the phone on Jan. 6 and further, that the president’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, witnessed the call.
This was the call in which Trump pressured Pence to stop or delay the certification. If the White House call records obtained Thursday show that a call was made to Pence but Pence did not pick up, then Kellogg’s testimony would seem to suggest that the pressure call to the vice president happened on another phone, and not an official White House telephone.
Like the select committee, the Archives did not immediately return request for comment Thursday about whether all of the White House call logs have been remitted to the panel in full or if others are still on the way.
The Jan. 6 committee has issued sweeping orders to telecommunications companies, including Verizon and T-Mobile, for the phone records of other Trump White House officials, family members, and orbiters. More than 100 people have been part of those requests; the companies have largely cooperated thus far, according to court records.
Select committee chairman Bennie Thompson has aired his concerns about Trump’s prolific unofficial cell phone use in the past.
Norm Eisen, a legal analyst for CNN, said Thursday that the gap of records in the White House call logs and related diaries “raises a set of very serious concerns, including questions of whether there was an intentional effort to circumvent the usual system and, if so, who directed it and for what purpose.”