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Thursday, February 10, 2022

Investigators Find Gaps in White House Logs of Trump’s Jan. 6 Calls - The New York Times

Investigators Find Gaps in White House Logs of Trump’s Jan. 6 Calls

"Sparse call records are the latest obstacle facing the House panel, which is trying to document what President Trump was doing during the attack on Congress.

Protesters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Jason Andrew for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has discovered gaps in official White House telephone logs from the day of the riot, finding few records of calls by President Donald J. Trump from critical hours when investigators know that he was making them.

Investigators have not uncovered evidence that any official records were tampered with or deleted, and it is well known that Mr. Trump used his personal cellphone, and those of his aides, routinely to talk with aides, congressional allies and outside confidants.

But the sparse call records are the latest major obstacle to the panel’s central mission: recreating what Mr. Trump was doing behind closed doors during crucial moments of the assault on Congress by a mob of his supporters.

The panel is still awaiting additional material from the National Archives and Records Administration, which keeps the official White House logs, and from telecommunications companies that have been subpoenaed for the personal cellphone records of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, like his son, Eric, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of Mr. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.

The call logs obtained by the committee document who was calling the White House switchboard, and any calls that were being made from the White House to others. Mr. Trump had a habit throughout his presidency of circumventing that system, making it far more difficult to discern with whom he was communicating.

Two people familiar with the phone records discussed the details about them on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing an ongoing congressional investigation. A spokesman for the committee declined to comment.

Since the Jan. 6, 2021 attack, former Trump administration officials have said that investigators would struggle to piece together a complete record of Trump’s conversations that day, because of his habit of using his and other people’s cellphones. At least one person who tried to reach Mr. Trump on his cellphone on Jan. 6 had their call picked up by one of his aides. It is unclear where Mr. Trump was at the time.

Few details of what Mr. Trump did inside the White House as rioters stormed the Capitol are known. He was watching television as the riot played out on cable news, and several aides including his daughter, Ivanka Trump, implored him to say something to try to tell the rioters to stop.

Nevertheless, his first public communication as the melee unfolded was a Twitter post attacking then-Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Trump also is known to have tried to reach out to one senator as the certification of the Electoral College vote was delayed. And he fielded a call from Representative Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, who told Mr. Trump that people were breaking into his office on Capitol Hill.

Early on in his administration, Mr. Trump was known to use the cellphone belonging to Keith Schiller, his personal body guard at Trump Tower and later the director of Oval Office operations, for some of his calls. It meant the White House call logs were often an incomplete reflection of his contacts.

Key Developments in the Jan. 6 Investigation

After the Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Trump’s efforts to block the release of hundreds of pages of presidential records, the National Archives turned over to the House panel investigating the riot voluminous documents that included daily presidential diaries, schedules, appointment information showing visitors to the White House, activity logs, call logs, and switchboard shift-change checklists showing calls to Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence on Jan. 6.

The committee has learned in recent weeks that Mr. Trump spoke on the phone with Mr. Pence and Republican lawmakers on the morning of Jan. 6 as he pushed to overturn the election. For instance, Mr. Trump mistakenly called the phone of Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, thinking it was the number of Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama. Mr. Lee then passed the phone to Mr. Tuberville, who said he spoke to the former president for less than 10 minutes as rioters were breaking into the building.

But many of the calls the committee is aware of did not show up in the official logs.

The revelations about incomplete call logs come as Mr. Trump is under increasing scrutiny for apparently violating the Presidential Records Act by ripping up some White House documents and taking others with him when he left office. The House Oversight committee on Thursday announced an investigation into what it called “potential serious violations” of the law, including that Mr. Trump took 15 boxes of White House documents to his Palm Beach, Fla., compound and attempted to destroy presidential records.

Mr. Trump’s conduct, said Representative Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the oversight committee, “involves a former president potentially violating a criminal law by intentionally removing records, including communications with a foreign leader, from the White House and reportedly attempting to destroy records by tearing them up.”

The National Archives and Records Administration discovered what it believed was classified information in documents Mr. Trump had taken with him. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the National Archives had asked the Justice Department to examine Mr. Trump’s handling of White House records."

Investigators Find Gaps in White House Logs of Trump’s Jan. 6 Calls - The New York Times

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