I’m trying to make sense of how big a deal this is, how new this is and frankly just what to make of it. I was even put slightly on my guard since the reporting is in part from Bob Woodward and it is so reminiscent of the notorious 18 minute gap in Watergate tape recordings. But what the Post and CBS News report this morning is that in the records turned over to the January 6th committee there is a roughly eight hour gap in the record of the President’s actions and calls that maps almost exactly to the period of violent insurrection on Capitol Hill.
From 11:17 a.m. to 6:54 p.m. there is no record of the President making or receiving any phone calls and there is almost no record of his actions. This is in contrast to an ordinarily non-public “diary” of the President’s actions which records virtually everything he does. (Obviously it’s kept by White House staff rather than the President himself.) There has long been public reporting of various calls the President placed and received during these hours, including what has been characterized as a shouting match with Kevin McCarthy. But there’s no record of any of that. According to the report, committee investigators are trying to figure out whether the President and his colleagues switched to burner phones or some other backchannel during these critical hours.
What jumped out to me — and, again, perhaps I’m not thinking about this correctly — is that some of those phones were calls to the President. In particular, the call with Kevin McCarthy was reportedly from Kevin McCarthy. If there was a burner phone, did McCarthy have that number? Did he think that was weird? Seems weird to me.
I’m trying to make sense of exactly what this means. Clearly, it doesn’t sound good. But I realize that I don’t know enough about the precise procedures that create these records. I’m pretty certain that calls other than those through the White House switchboard get logged. But I don’t know a lot more than that about just how it works. The same applies to the diary of the President’s actions.
If this were still during the Trump administration the most likely answer would be that the White House and/or National Archives just didn’t turn over some of the documents. But given that it’s the Biden administration that doesn’t seem likely. Presumably the records in question simply don’t exist.