Investigators probing the January 6 insurrection at the US capitol have identified a roughly eight-hour gap in official records of then-president Donald Trump’s phone calls as the violence unfolded and his supporters stormed the building, sources have revealed.
The gap extends from just after 11am to about 7pm on January 6 2021, and involves White House calls, according to someone familiar with the investigation.
It is unclear if that gap includes White House mobile phones.
It is widely known that Mr Trump had conversations on January 6 with Republican legislators.
Investigators in the US house of representatives are looking at whether the former president was communicating during that time through other means, possibly through personal mobile phones, or some other type of communication – such as a phone passed to him by an aide or a burner phone.
The house committee has subpoenaed mobile phone companies for records and is awaiting data. Mr Trump had no immediate comment on the matter on Tuesday, but he has previously disparaged the investigation.
The committee is also continuing to receive records from the US national archives and other sources, which could produce additional information.
But the lack of information about Mr Trump’s calls is a frustrating challenge to investigators as they work to create the most comprehensive record yet of the attack, with a particular focus on what the president was doing in the White House as hundreds of his supporters violently beat police, broke into the capitol and interrupted the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory.
It also raises questions of whether Trump purposefully circumvented official channels to avoid records.
During the missing hours, Mr Trump went to a rally at the Ellipse, spoke, then watched as the violent mob of his supporters broke into the capitol, overwhelming police and marauding through the building for hours before they were finally kicked out and the area was declared secure at about 5.30pm.
More than 700 people have been arrested over the violence.
Mr Trump communicated with at least some Republican legislators during the insurrection. He spoke, for example, with house Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who asked him to call off the mob, according to Republican representative Jaime Lynn Herrera Beutler of Washington state, who said McCarthy told her about the call.
She said in a statement: “That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”
Republican senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama also said he spoke with the president in that time period, telling reporters: “I said: ‘Mr President, they’ve taken the vice president out. They want me to get off the phone. I gotta go.”
That call by Mr Trump apparently first went to Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah, who then handed the phone to Mr Tuberville.
The gap in records was previously reported by the AP. The exact length of time of the gap was first reported by The Washington Post.
The committee is focused on Mr Trump’s actions that day because he waited hours to tell his supporters to stop the violence and leave the capitol.
The panel is also interested in the organisation and financing of the rally that morning in Washington, DC, where Mr Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell”.
Among the unanswered questions is how close organisers of the rally coordinated with White House officials.
In many cases, the committee may not need direct confirmation from the White House about Mr Trump’s calls.
Legislators have already interviewed more than 500 witnesses, including several people in Mr Trump’s inner circle who may be able to fill in those gaps.
They are hampered, though, by the former president’s claims of executive privilege over his personal conversations, which have prompted many witnesses to refuse to answer some questions.
Committee members voted unanimously on Monday to hold former Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of US congress for their months-long refusal to comply with subpoenas.