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 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 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: re-creating what 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 Trump’s inner circle, like his son, Eric, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancee of 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. Trump had a habit throughout his presidency of circumventing that system, making it far more difficult to discern who he was communicating with.
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 spokesperson 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 Trump on his cellphone Jan. 6 had their call picked up by one of his aides. It is unclear where Trump was at the time.
Few details of what 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. 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 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, who told Trump that people were breaking into his office on Capitol Hill.
Early on in his administration, Trump was known to use the cellphone belonging to Keith Schiller, his personal bodyguard 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.
After the Supreme Court ruled against 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 Trump and Pence on Jan. 6.
The committee has learned in recent weeks that Trump spoke on the phone with Pence and Republican lawmakers on the morning of Jan. 6 as he pushed to overturn the election. For instance, Trump mistakenly called the phone of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, thinking it was the number of Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. Lee then passed the phone to 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 comes as 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 Trump took 15 boxes of White House documents to his Palm Beach, Florida, compound and attempted to destroy presidential records.
Trump’s conduct, said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chair 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 Trump had taken with him. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the National Archives had asked the Department of Justice to examine Trump’s handling of White House records.