Let’s talk about these call logs.
At the top of this week, The Washington Post and CBS News reported that upon review of official phone logs from the Trump White House given to the Jan. 6 committee, a gap of over seven hours was discovered in then-President Donald Trump’s official daily diary and switchboard record from that day.
In contrast, on Thursday, CNN reported that “an official review” of those logs—based on anonymous sources familiar with the matter, including a former Obama White House staffer—determined the records were “complete.”
The earlier reported gaps, the source told CNN, were likely due to Trump’s “typical” practice of having staff place calls for him on White House landline phones or using White House-provided cell phones or personal phones. Neither would be traced through the White House switchboard, meaning they would not appear on the log provided to the committee.
So, what to make of all this? Are the Jan. 6 call logs complete or incomplete? What information is missing? Was there a cover-up?
In this heap of anonymously sourced reporting and analysis tied to the call logs, at least one fact can be safely established today, Friday, the 450th day since the attempted overthrow of the 2020 election: There is a huge amount of information about Trump’s exact conduct during the bloodshed and chaos of Jan. 6 that remains unknown and is in dire need of additional context.
The records published by The Washington Post and CBS cover 11 pages. Six of those pages are the “Presidential Call Log” while five comprise the “Daily Diary of President Donald J. Trump.”
The diary will record a president’s movements on a given day. The call log shows call records incoming and outgoing from the White House switchboard or from aides. It will also list the length of a call and a small notation, perhaps, but scant else.
Under law, both the logs and the diary must be preserved.
The Trump administration was notoriously bad at maintaining records, and Trump’s penchant for using his cell phone or a staffer’s phone to make or take calls, regardless of how sensitive the subject matter was, is well documented.
Recreating the timeline of Jan. 6 has been made more difficult by this, and the gaps in these particular logs raise major questions when compared against the record of Trump’s communication with high-ranking officials or allies before and during the attack.
For example, the logs omit a critical phone call that took place between Trump and then-Vice President Mike Pence that morning. There are also missing records of calls that happened between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as well as other Republican lawmakers like Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
Those calls happened, and they have been corroborated through court records, committee testimony, or public statements made by those directly involved. To wit, Pence’s National Security Adviser Keith Kellogg testified to the committee that he heard Trump speak to Pence on the phone from the Oval Office on the morning of Jan. 6.
Kellogg said he heard Trump pressure the vice president to go along with the scheme to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Ivanka Trump was also present for that call.
Kellogg’s testimony was corroborated by other witnesses who appeared before the committee and heard the call as well. But there’s no record of that call on the switchboard, a fact that now raises questions over what device Trump used in that moment and why.
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Handwritten notes attached to Trump’s private schedule for Jan. 6 show him having a call with “VPOTUS” at 11:20 AM. The presidential diary for the day meanwhile notes Trump called an “unidentified person” at 11:17 AM on Jan. 6, but the diary fails to mention the 11:20 AM call from his private schedule. And as noted by CNN, neither call was reflected in the White House call log.
McCarthy admitted openly he spoke to Trump on Jan. 6 when he was interviewed by Fox News last April, and he admitted the same to fellow Republican Rep. Jamie Herrera-Beutler months before when Trump was facing impeachment for incitement of insurrection.
McCarthy said he spoke to Trump in the middle of the afternoon on Jan. 6 as the violence was playing out at the Capitol. The California Republican recalled being under siege and frantically calling Trump for help. He begged the president to “forcefully” call off his supporters.
But just like the Pence call, there’s no record of the McCarthy call on the official log either.
Trump called Lee during the attack at 2:26 PM, something Lee admitted during Trump’s second impeachment inquiry. Lee said Trump intended to reach Tuberville but dialed the wrong number, so Lee passed his phone off to Tuberville.
When the Alabama senator picked up, he told the president Pence had been removed from Senate chambers just as rioters had stormed the complex.
That call record is missing from the logs, too.
It may seem a small detail now, but as The Guardian has reported, “two sources familiar with the matter” said Lee was called by Trump from a number listed as (202) 395-0000.
That is a “placeholder number that shows when a call is incoming from a number of White House department phones,” the sources said.
Since the Lee call is missing from the log, the specter of tampering is now raised.
An entry not omitted from the logs spurs even more questions: Trump’s 10-minute phone call with Rep. Jim Jordan.
Jordan has been a fierce ally to the ex-president, defending him at every turn and patently refusing to cooperate with the probe. Jordan has also been completely unable or unwilling to keep his story straight about his contact with Trump on the day of the assault.
Last July, when pressed by Fox News host Bret Baier about how many times he spoke to Trump on Jan. 6, Jordan said his chats with Trump happened so often, he couldn’t “remember all the days I talked to the president.”
Within 24 hours Jordan changed his story, this time telling a different reporter he couldn’t recall if he and Trump spoke in the morning or not.
When Jordan appeared for a meeting before the House Rules Committee in October, he told Chairman Jim McGovern he couldn’t recall how many times he spoke to Trump on Jan. 6, but Jordan sputtered: “I talked to the president after the attack.”
According to the traceable call log made public this week, Trump and Jordan spoke for exactly 10 minutes on Jan. 6 starting at 9:24 AM.
If they spoke after the attack, like Jordan said last October, then this particular log does not show it.
Assessment of these logs as “complete” may very well be technically accurate if that assessment does not account for the ways Trump bypassed the traceable system or abused procedure.
The Select Intelligence Committee for the U.S. Senate noted in its 2020 report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that Trump often relied on his bodyguard, Keith Schiller, when he wanted to call Republican operative Roger Stone. Trump, the report stated, would use Schiller’s phone to chat with Stone because he did not want his advisers to know they were speaking.
Sources told the Post and CBS Trump may have used a disposable or “burner” phone on Jan. 6 to evade scrutiny. Trump has denied knowing what a burner phone is, let alone using one.
Yet his former National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters Trump knows exactly what the devices are, and that would track with reporting by Rolling Stone from November that Team Trump was no stranger to the hard-to-trace devices.
Sources told the magazine that March for Trump and Women for America First organizers used burner phones at length for “crucial planning conversations” about the rally at the Ellipse. The officials, including Kylie and Amy Kremer, allegedly communicated with Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, but also with the president’s son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Lara Trump, on the phones.
In its contempt of Congress report for Meadows, the Jan. 6 committee established there was prevalent use of personal devices and encrypted apps by Meadows in service of the president.
So far the committee has interviewed and taken depositions from 800 people, including many of those figures who appeared in the Jan. 6 call logs, like Steve Bannon, John Eastman, and Rudy Giuliani.
The logs show Trump spoke to Bannon at 8:37 AM on Jan. 6 and then with Giuliani, his attorney, not long after at 8:45 AM. Within 10 minutes, Trump called Meadows and then tried to call Pence.
Pence was unavailable, so Trump left a message with the vice president’s office.
Bannon reportedly asked Trump if Pence was going to attend a breakfast meeting because the men wanted to get Pence on board with their plan to delay or stop the certification.
Trump also spoke to Fox News host Sean Hannity and right-wing commentator William Bennett. He called then-Sen. David Perdue of Georgia as well, and he also spoke to Kurt Olsen early that morning. Olsen was a champion of Trump’s bogus election fraud conspiracy theories.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got a call from Trump too, as did Sen. Josh Hawley. McConnell told the Post he declined Trump’s call on Jan. 6, and Hawley has said he missed the call altogether and that he never spoke to Trump on Jan. 6.
Stephen Miller haunts the public call logs too; he and Trump spoke for almost half an hour on Jan. 6 from 9:52 AM to 10:18 AM.
After the seven-hour gap of time where no official calls are recorded on Jan. 6, the next bit of action didn’t occur until 6:54 PM when Trump rang up Dan Scavino, his trusted aide and communications director. Scavino has refused to cooperate with the Jan. 6 probe and, along with trade adviser Peter Navarro, was found in contempt of Congress by the Jan. 6 committee.
A full vote by the House to find them in contempt will be held on April 4.