What is Trump hiding? Capitol riot-sized hole in White House call log | Attack on the United States Capitol
At 2:26 p.m. on January 6 last year, Donald Trump picked up a phone from the White House and called Mike Lee, the Republican senator from Utah. The communication came at a very important time.
Thirty-seven minutes earlier, a riot had been declared by Washington DC police. Minutes later, then-Vice President Mike Pence was kicked out of the Senate Chamber, where he had presided over Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, and put in the hiding.
Fifteen minutes before Trump made the call, his supporters, urged by the incumbent president to “fight like hell” against what he falsely claimed was a rigged election, burst through a window in the south facade of the Capitol and entered the heart of American democracy.
The January 6 insurrection was underway.
Yet when you search for recorded details of Trump’s 2:26 p.m. call that was made, as revealed by the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell, on an official White House landline, they are nowhere to be found. Lee’s call was from an unknown number that Trump made during a mysterious 7 hour 37 minute gap that exists in the call logs – precisely the time period of the Capitol attack.
These missing call logs, leaked by The Washington Post and CBS News, raise several burning questions – how did the recordings go missing? who performed the excision? – but nothing more urgent than this: what was Trump trying to hide?
“A gap like this does not happen by accident. This is no coincidence,” said Charlie Sykes, a columnist at the conservative Trump-resistant newspaper, The Bulwark. “There is no innocent explanation here – someone made the decision to rip the record for crucial hours on January 6 and there must be a reason for that.”
What Trump is trying to hide lies at the heart of the House committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 uprising. The former president has always tried to block information given to the committee – pressuring those around him not to testify, tearing up documents before they were handed over.
The stakes in the fight for evidence rose sharply this week when a federal judge ruled that Trump “more likely than not … dishonestly conspired to obstruct” Congress on January 6. It would be a criminal act.
There has never been a doubt that Trump inspired his supporters to descend on Washington on that fateful day, nor that he encouraged them to protest along the lines of the “big lie” that the election was stolen from him.
Three weeks before the uprising, he tweeted: “Big protest in DC Jan 6th. Be there, it’s going to be wild!
But Trump is a master at making outrageous comments while hiding or leaving ambiguous his real intentions. What exactly did he mean by “will be wild!” ? How far was he willing to push this proposal? Critically, would the missing call logs covering the period of the insurrection offer any clues to his motivation?
A call Trump is known to have made in the black hole of those missing hours between 11:17 a.m. and 6:54 p.m. was to Pence. Late on Jan. 6, the incumbent made a last-ditch attempt to persuade his deputy to commit an illegal act — delaying certification of Biden’s victory in violation of his constitutional duties.
According to a leaked account of the call to The New York Times, Trump cajoled Pence with the immortal words: “You can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as a pussy.”
Pence went down in history as a patriot — doing his constitutional duty and certifying the rightful outcome. But that phone call marked an important point in the timeline of Trump’s coup attempt: It was a point of no return — his final move to cling to power through political persuasion.
Had Trump moved away from this point, he would have entered much darker territory. As Sykes said, “When he hung up on Mike Pence, who did he call next? Once he found out the VP wasn’t going to do what he wanted, then what?
David Frum, a former White House speechwriter for George W Bush, writing in The Atlantic, said there were two main lines of inquiry: Did Trump greenlight the Capitol insurrection in advance, and did he coordinate in any way with the attackers.
The January 6 committee is firmly focused on the so-called “War Room” – the group of close aides to Trump who gathered at the Willard Hotel in Washington as the “command center” of Trump’s efforts to overthrow the election. They included his former strategist Steve Bannon, his attorney Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, the conservative law professor who has laid out a detailed plan for how Trump could illegitimately retain power.
As the Guardian reported, Trump told the group about Pence’s refusal to accept the coup plot. But beyond that, we remain in the dark.
Due to missing logs, it is unclear whether the then-president remained in contact with the Willard Hotel Group during the course of the insurgency. It’s also unclear if they discussed any other tactics.
The discrepancy in official documents could also hamper the committee’s attempt to verify whether there was direct contact between Trump and Jan. 6 organizers. Ali Alexander, who started the “Stop the Steal” movement and planned a “One Nation Under God” rally in the Capitol that was canceled amid the violence, was a figure of interest for the committee.
Before the insurgency, he spoke to Kimberly Guilfoyle, the partner of Trump’s son, Don Jr. CNN reported that he also said in videos released before the attack that he planned to contact extreme groups right the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to ask they assure the security of his rally.
Both organizations have members who are being prosecuted for criminal acts on January 6. Earlier this month, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested on conspiracy and other charges. The founder of the Oath Keepers and 10 other members have been charged with seditious conspiracy.
Alexander testified before the January 6 committee in December. In his opening remarks, he said: “I have nothing to do with the violence or the breaking of the law that happened on January 6. I have nothing to do with planning. I have nothing to do with the preparation. And I have nothing to do with execution.
These words could easily have come from the mouth of Donald J Trump. The challenge facing the committee, in the absence of the disappearing telephone logs, is to establish whether they are true.