Official White House logs from 6 January 2021 – the day the US Capital was breached by a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters – show a seven-hour and 37-minute gap in presidential phone activity while the assault was at its height.
The bipartisan congressional committee investigating the attack had fought a lengthy legal battle to obtain the presidential records, which could shed light on the activity of the president and his closest aides on the day.
The logs show the president contacting at least eight people in the morning – including former White House advisor Steve Bannon and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who were both organizing attempts to overturn Mr. Trump’s presidential defeat, according to records obtained by CBS News, the BBC’s US media partner, and the Washington Post.
It also records calls with 11 people in the evening. But they document no contacts from 11:17 am to 18:45 pm local time (16:17 to 23:45 BST).
This runs counter to accounts from several Republican members of Congress – including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama – that they spoke with the president by phone that afternoon.
The logs also do not show a reported late morning phone call between Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, where the latter again refused the president’s increasingly angry demands to delay the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
It could be an indication that the president was communicating through unofficial channels, such as an aide’s device or an undisclosed “burner” personal mobile phone.
The gap may raise concerns that records of presidential contacts during key moments – as US Capitol police were in a melee with Trump supporters and Secret Service officers were evacuating Mr Pence from the Senate chamber – have been withheld or destroyed. If so, it could prompt accusations of a cover-up reminiscent of the one revealed in the 1973 Watergate investigation, when Oval Office audio recordings provided to congressional investigators contained 18-and-a-half minutes of missing audio.
Accusations of presidential involvement in a criminal conspiracy led to Richard Nixon’s resignation the following year.