The Department of Justice must take immediate action to investigate whether former President Donald Trump violated federal criminal law by destroying critical records from January 6, 2021 before leaving office, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and National Security Archive. Internal White House presidential call logs from that day contain a significant gap of more than seven hours during a critical period when the Capitol was under attack by insurrectionists, raising the possibility that portions of the call logs were destroyed to cover up the former President’s conduct that day.
Documents turned over to the January 6th Committee revealed the missing call log information. Throughout his administration, Trump’s recordkeeping practices were described as “generally chaotic” as he sought to evade having records of certain calls created, a clear violation of the Presidential Records Act. These habits included the former president’s habit of using cell phones to make or receive calls, particularly when he was in the Oval Office, which would bypass the White House switchboard and fail to create presidential records. The missing seven hour and 37-minute gap in White House call records from January 6, 2021 covers critical periods of the insurrectionist assault on the Capitol, despite at least five calls to or from Trump during that period having been documented in the public record. These include conversations with Senator Mike Lee, Senator Tommy Tuberville, then-Senator Kelly Loeffler, former Vice President Pence, Rep. Jim Jordan and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
“If it turns out that call logs were destroyed in order to hide President Trump’s actions on January 6, that will seriously hamper the American people’s ability to learn the truth about Trump’s role in this attack on American democracy, and it will be one more shameful aspect of that day,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “Piecing together what happened on January 6 is critical for holding those responsible accountable for their actions, and determining why there is an inexplicable gap in the President’s call logs is now an important part of that effort. The DOJ must act to investigate and to hold Trump accountable for his behavior.”
“Violations of the records laws keep piling up, the more we find out about the Trump time in office,” said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive and co-plaintiff with CREW in multiple lawsuits seeking to enforce the laws. “Disappearing instant messages, vanishing visitor logs, ripped up records, grabbed translator notebooks, absconded Top Secret boxes, and now the Trump black hole that ate the White House switchboard.”
This is not the first time CREW and the National Security Archive have taken legal action against the former president and his administration for failing to adhere to their recordkeeping obligations. The organizations sent a letter in February urging the DOJ to investigate whether Donald Trump violated the law by destroying records of his presidency before leaving office.