March 30, 2022
Fifty years ago, the scandalous actions of an American president were shielded from public view, thanks to a suspiciously convenient 18½-minute gap in the Nixon White House’s call recordings. Today, the actions of another American president remain shielded thanks to another convenient—and inexplicable— gap in White House records, reports The Washington Post.
The Post’s Bob Woodward and CBS News’s Robert Costa state that White House documents turned over to the House January 6 select committee display a gap of 7 hours and 37 minutes between phone calls then-President Donald Trump had with allies.
The gap takes place between 11:17 a.m. and 6:54 p.m., covering virtually the entirety of the insurrection at the Capitol, which was first breached at 2:11 p.m. on January 6, 2021.
Other Trump actions are recorded for that period, including an hour-plus-long speech he gave at a rally that preceded the insurrection, and some of his movements inside the White House. But vast stretches of time are unaccounted for, The Washington Post says.
Why is that inexplicable? Because the documents show Trump rather feverishly working the phones at virtually all other times. He spoke to at least eight people that morning, in the period before the more than seven-hour gap, and he spoke to at least 11 people afterward. He also repeatedly requested calls with, and received messages from, the White House switchboard.
Perhaps most important, we know the logs are missing at least four calls — and important ones, at that — that have become public knowledge in the year since January 6.
The documents appear to exclude calls Trump had with then-Vice President Mike Pence, Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California). We already know that the latter two occurred during the gap, and the other two might well have.
Trump also requested a number of calls with people with whom calls were never recorded in the logs, including Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), who led the effort to stop Congress from finalizing Trump’s loss, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), whom an aide said
And the final call recorded before the gap—at 11:17 a.m.—lists the other party on the call as an “unidentified person.” It’s the only such call listed, and for some reason it’s featured in Trump’s daily diary but not in the call log (as the other calls are).
Below is a timeline of what is known, based on the White House documents (both the call log and the daily diary) and other key events in the public record (in italics), along with the missing and incomplete call information (in bold).
For brevity, the Post excludes most requests for calls that were soon recorded as having taken place, while keeping requests for other calls that either weren’t recorded or didn’t happen for several hours.
- 8:34 a.m. — Kurt Olsen
- 8:37 a.m. — Stephen K. Bannon
- 8:45 a.m. — Rudy Giuliani
- 8:56 a.m. — Requests White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows
- 9:02 a.m. — Requests Vice President Mike Pence
- 9:16 a.m. — Requests Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (a call that an aide says the senator declined)
- 9:24 a.m. — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
- 9:39 a.m. — Requests Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)
- 9:41 a.m. — Giuliani
- 9:52 a.m. — Stephen Miller
- 10:32 a.m. — Nick Luna
- 10:45 a.m. — William Bennett
- 11:04 a.m. — Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.)
- 11:11 a.m. — Meets with his children and advisers
- 11:17 a.m. —Call with unidentified person (no end time for call recorded, not recorded at all on call log)
- Late morning— Pence (during which Trump reportedly tells him: “Mike, you can do this. I’m counting on you to do it. If you don’t do it, I picked the wrong man four years ago.” He adds, according to Woodward and Costa, “You’re going to wimp out!”)
- 11:38 a.m. — Leaves for “Stop the Steal” rally
- 12 p.m.-1:17 p.m. — Speech at “Stop the Steal” rally
- 1:19 p.m. — Returns to White House
- 1:21 p.m. — Meets with valet
- 2:11 p.m. — Capitol is breached
- 2:13 p.m. — Pence escorted from House chamber
- ??? — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). (McCarthy has said he was “the first person to contact [Trump] when the riot was going on.” Trump reportedly told McCarthy, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”)
- 2:24 p.m. — Trump tweets attacking Pence
- 2:26 p.m. — Mistakenly calls Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) seeking Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). Lee hands phone to Tuberville.
- ??? — At least one more call with Jordan. (Jordan has confirmed he spoke with Trump multiple timesthat day. Politico reported this call took place early in the insurrection and featured Jordan and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida asking Trump to call off his supporters.)
- 4:03 p.m.-4:07 p.m. — Records message to supporters in Rose Garden
- 6:54 p.m. — Requests Dan Scavino
- 7:01 p.m. — Pat Cipollone
- 7:08 p.m. — Scavino
- 7:16 p.m. — Informed of pending calls from five people: Olsen, Mark Martin, Cleta Mitchell, Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Hawley. Trump asks for calls to Olsen, Martin, and Mitchell.
- 7:17 p.m. — Olsen
- 7:30 p.m. — Mark Martin
- 7:40 p.m. — Olsen
- 7:53 p.m. — Mitchell
- 8:39 p.m. — Giuliani
- 9:23 a.m. — Jason Miller
- 9:42 p.m. — Kayleigh McEnany
- 9:55 p.m. — Scavino
- 10:11 p.m. — Meadows
- 10:19 p.m. — Bannon
- 10:50 p.m. — Eric Herschmann
- 11:08 p.m. — Fox News host Sean Hannity
- 11:23 p.m. — John McEntee
The White House isn’t the only entity to have slow-rolled its disclosure of Trump’s calls with Jordan; so did Jordan, who implausibly claimed he didn’t remember how often he spoke to Trump or when. His office later confirmed there were multiple calls between the two that day, but only one is recorded by the White House.
McCarthy also threatened phone and tech companies that supplied records to the Jan. 6 committee with retribution if Republicans retake the House.
There is no question that information is missing. The question is how much and why. Were people caught up in the moment and not recording things after the insurrection was underway? That seems possible, but certainly these times would seem to call for extra care in recording Trump’s actions.
Perhaps relevant to that question is the call at 11:17 a.m. Not only is the other party not identified (unlike the other calls), but it also features no end time (unlike the other calls) and doesn’t appear in the call log (unlike the other calls). You could certainly make an argument, then, that the gap stretches to nearly eight hours, between Trump’s calls with Perdue at 11:04 a.m. and his request for Scavino at 6:54 p.m.
But also consider this, the Post says: That call would have been listed on the next page of records, if there were such a record. The gap somehow neatly breaks down with the last recorded call—with Perdue at 11:04 a.m.—at the end of one page and the beginning of the next one—the request for Scavino at 6:54 p.m.
Research contact: @washingtonpost