Trump’s unorthodox phone habits complicate Jan. 6 investigation

“He took everyone’s calls,” the aide said, even interrupting national security briefings to make and receive calls.

The phone was his lifeline, according to former Trump administration officials.

That’s because the House Select Committee on the U.S. Capitol Riot discovered an unusual gap in Trump’s official White House telephone log for several hours, sources familiar with the House investigation say. – after returning to the White House after speaking to his supporters at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, until he addressed the nation via video from the Rose Garden. And investigators have been looking elsewhere — to other people’s cellphones and possibly even Trump’s own cellphones, though the committee has declined to take that uncomfortable step so far.

The committee’s difficulty in tracking who Trump spoke to — and when — is dealing with his unorthodox phone habits during his tenure: According to multiple sources formerly in the administration, the ex-president often used other people’s phones people (or multiple personal phones, sometimes up and down) to communicate with his followers – and even his family.

A former staffer attributed the former president’s habit to a dislike of anyone listening to his calls (which, at the White House, is hard for a president to avoid if he’s calling from a desk phone). Thus, he frequently grabbed the cell phone of a nearby assistant or even a Secret Service agent to make calls.

Case in point: After the Stormy Daniels story broke in 2018, Trump was on the golf course trying to reach his wife, Melania Trump, from her phone, and she didn’t pick up, a well-known source claims. informed. So he turned to a Secret Service agent and used the agent’s phone to try to reach her instead. The first lady then picked up. According to this source, the agent was not happy that his phone was used in this way.
As CNN reported, sources familiar with the investigation have drawn no conclusions about the large discrepancy in phone records at this point. Trump may have decided not to make or receive calls, committee sources admit. It’s also possible that the National Archives will find more records – on other people’s phones – to explain the gaps.
Multiple sources told CNN that former White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino was a common channel for Trump’s conversations, having an office in the president’s “shouting distance” outside oval. A source saw Scavino regularly handing his phone over to Trump to take calls. The source describes Scavino as the “key to almost everything,” given his time with the then-president. A lawyer for Scavino declined to comment.

Scavino, according to this source, had an official phone and a personal phone.

He was subpoenaed by the committee on Jan. 6 and is suing Verizon over the committee’s subpoena of his phone records. The lawsuit – still in its early stages – temporarily barred the phone company from providing its call logs and subscriber information to the House.

The way former aides tell it, people would often talk to Trump calling the staff around him. According to aides, some callers found it easier to communicate through chief of staff Mark Meadows or even his daughter Ivanka Trump. They would offer Trump a call from an ally who was waiting, and he would either take it or wave them away.

“He liked to talk to people he was okay with,” said another aide.

Moreover, Trump would not usually take his own personal cell phone into the Oval Office, according to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who repeatedly tried to reach him as the riot raged.

“First I called his secretary. She didn’t pick up the phone. She went straight to voicemail. Then I called his human body and he didn’t answer the phone. Then , I called the White House switchboard and asked to be put on And they said he wasn’t available. And then I called his personal cell phone,” Christie told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview last year. “I didn’t know where he was. I tried his cell phone and it went to voicemail.”

Trump never called Christie back that day, the former governor told Bash.

Trump spoke with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the uprising – although it was not noted in official call logs. An earlier morning call with GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, first reported by CNN, was noted in the official log.

To assess how unprecedented Trump’s presidential behavior on the phone was – and how he ran the White House in general – a former senior White House official describes an early chaotic process with “almost no trace of anything.” that is”.

“In fact,” says this former official, “no one has ever thought of keeping track of people entering and leaving the Ring.”

According to another former White House official, “for large chunks, at least, and most likely the entire Trump presidency, there are no Oval Office visitor records.” Keeping such records is not mandatory, but had become the norm under previous administrations.

When General John Kelly became Trump’s chief of staff in July 2017, he tried to clean up the messy phone process inside the White House – and his boss hated it, according to a former White House official . Kelly tried to keep call logs and screen Trump’s calls, but the president bristled at the restrictions because he didn’t want Kelly to know who he was talking to, the former official said.

By comparison, a knowledgeable source says that in the previous administration, all calls went through official White House channels — through the residence, switchboard, situation room and signal operator. There was no way around the tight restrictions.

“It just didn’t happen,” the source said. There was no getting around it.” And most calls were by appointment.

Also, the source said, then-President Barack Obama would never have been allowed to use a Secret Service aide or agent’s phone to make calls. “God, no,” the source said.


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