Investigators working for the House select committee investigating the 6 January insurrection have found significant gaps in White House call logs which have reportedly hindered their efforts to reconstruct his communications during the worst attack on the Capitol since the 1814 Burning of Washington.
According to the New York Times, the committee has found “few records” of calls made or recieved by Mr Trump during time periods when he was known to be making phone calls.
During his time in the White House, Mr Trump routinely made use of his personal mobile phone and mobile phones belonging to his close advisers rather than follow the customary practice of placing calls through the White House switchboard. Because those phone calls were not logged by the White House, investigators are having a hard time piecing together who Mr Trump spoke to before and during the riot.
The Times also reports that investigators have not found any evidence that the official White House phone logs were altered in any way.
Investigators are hoping to reconstruct more of Mr Trump’s communications that day by way of additional records to be obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration, as well as records subpoenaed from telecommunications providers for some of his closest confidantes, including his eldest son Donald Trump Jr, his son’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, and his middle son, Eric Trump.
Some of Mr Trump’s communications that day have been previously reported, such as a call he placed to Utah Senator Mike Lee’s mobile phone just as a mob of his supporters was invading the Capitol in hopes of stopping Congress from certifying then-president elect Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral college victory.
Mr Trump also reportedly took a call from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke to the then-president after being evacuated from the House chamber.
The revelation of the former president’s evasion of the White House’s call logging system comes as Mr Trump’s habit of destroying official documents is under renewed scrutiny amid reports that some documents turned over to the panel by Nara earlier this year had been ripped apart and reassembled with the aid of tape.
Additionally, Mr Trump is now the subject of a House Oversight Committee investigation into what the committee called “potential serious violations” of federal record-keeping laws, including whether Mr Trump continued to possess presidential records after his term ended last January.
Earlier this week, Oversight committee chair Carolyn Maloney asked the Department of Justice to look into Mr Trump’s handling of White House records after it became known that Nara recently had to recover 15 boxes of records — which are the property of the US government — from Mr Trump’s Florida residence.
“[Mr] Trump’s conduct … 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,” she wrote in a letter to Archivist of the United States David Ferriero.
In a statement, Mr Trump denied any wrongdoing and characterized his discussions with Nara as “collaborative and respectful” interactions meant to set arrangements for “transport of boxes that contained Presidential Records in compliance with the Presidential Records Act”.
“Much of this material will someday be displayed in the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library for the public to view my Administration’s incredible accomplishments for the American People,” he said.