Trump's "missing" Jan. 6 call log: Never mind

Trump's "missing" Jan. 6 call log: Never mind
Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

If you’ve been following any of the coverage of the work of the January 6 committee (a thankless, mind-numbing task, I know) you probably saw all of the excitement on the left after the former President’s White House records for the day of the riot were released to the committee members. What really had the juices flowing in liberal circles was what was described as a “mysterious seven-hour gap” in the President’s official call log. During the course of the unrest, despite having made calls in the morning, no record showed up of any calls to or from the President during that time. His detractors were simply positive that he must have made some calls, particularly one they suspected him of making to Mike Pence, allegedly encouraging him to block the certification of the election.

The media has been all over this story. The Washington Post asked, “what caused the suspicious gap?” Over at The Hill, they saw shades of Watergate, comparing the supposedly missing call entries to the missing portions of Nixon’s tapes. Similar coverage in other outlets sprang up rapidly. This must be the smoking gun we’ve been looking for! We’ve got the Bad Orange Man now! But then CNN had to come along and deflate everyone’s balloons, declaring that the call log was actually complete and that gap showed up almost every day in Trump’s logs because of technical reasons.

The mystery of the seven-hour gap has fueled furious speculation as to why calls are missing. That includes allegations that Trump was using “burner phones” (which he has denied) or that the logs were purposely suppressed. But the gap might have a less mysterious explanation.

According to multiple sources familiar with Trump’s phone behavior and the White House switchboard records, the January 6 log reflects Trump’s typical phone habits…

The six pages of White House switchboard logs for January 6, 2021, are complete based on an official review of White House records, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Sadly for those still desperately trying to see Trump locked up for something (or at least stop him from coming back and retaking the White House), the explanation for this “mystery” won’t require any meetings with Deep Throat in a parking garage. The call logs for the President are generated based on calls that go through the White House switchboard. It’s a system that was established back in the 1960s, long before the era of cellphones and other modern communications technology or social media. So the record only reflects calls that go through the main switchboard.

On a typical day for Trump, there were records of calls beginning shortly after he got up early in the morning. Those were calls that he made in the residence on a landline and the landline is tied into the switchboard. But once he moved from the residence to the Oval Office, as with many presidents before him, Trump rarely used the landline and he generally didn’t even place his own calls. He would ask someone else to place a call for him and then be patched in when the person was on the line. He also asked aides to place calls via cellphone, either his or their own, taking the phone from them when the other party was on the line.

To their credit, CNN spoke to a former staffer who worked in the Oval Office with Barack Obama. He reported that Obama did the exact same thing, having others place his calls and then being patched in. So if you examined Obama’s call logs during similar periods of time you would see a similar gap on most days.

None of this, however, has stopped CNN from continuing to beat the drum and asking about the alleged phone call to Pence on the morning of January 6. Did such a call take place? We don’t know yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising. We know that Trump was more than a little suspicious about the election results and had spoken to Pence previously about rooting out possible voter fraud on a massive scale or how to potentially hold off on the election certification. But none of that means he actually knew about or planned the riot, which the committee seems desperate to prove.

It’s almost a pity that there wasn’t anything nefarious about the gap in the call log. It would have made for one hell of a story, wouldn’t it?

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Ed Morrissey 10:01 AM on June 02, 2023