The select committee in the House of Representatives examining the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building is contemplating whether to pursue White House call logs from that day.
The call logs could reveal who communicated with former President Donald Trump on the day that a mob of his loyalists attacked the U.S. Capitol following an incendiary speech delivered by Trump.
The January 6 commission is discussing the possibility of obtaining call logs with the Biden administration, according to reporting from CNN, citing two sources with knowledge of those talks. It’s unclear whether the Biden White House will agree to release the logs, however, as it would set a precedent that undermines the ability of the president to keep these conversations private.
Federal regulations allow Trump to assert executive privilege on those call logs, even though he’s out of office. Those same regulations, however, allow President Joe Biden to overrule Trump’s privilege claims.
A request for call logs involves a negotiation between the White House and whoever is asking for them, initially through an informal discussion. If that process breaks down, subpoenas may come next, and if the White House still objects, the issue may go to the courts.
Although it’s uncertain whether the Biden administration would cooperate with a request for the call logs, the administration has indicated it is willing to forego executive privilege for Trump on other fronts.
About two weeks ago, the Department of Justice (DOJ) notified former Trump administration officials that it “would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege” regarding their communications with Trump, his adviser, or others “on matters related to the committee’s proposed interviews.” Those officials, in other words, are able to testify voluntarily if they want, or be compelled to do so if subpoenaed, to various congressional committees, including the January 6 commission, on what was discussed in the White House regarding that day’s events.
The call logs could be relevant for determining who the commission might want to interview regarding Trump’s thinking the day Congress was attacked by his loyalists. The logs could include members of Congress and loyalists to the former president who spoke with him about the attack as it was happening.
Trump is known to have spoken with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on January 6. According to other lawmakers knowledgeable of their conversation that day, the two had a terse back-and-forth discussion over the phone, exchanging expletives at one another while the events were unfolding.
According to reports on those conversations, McCarthy had allegedly called Trump to get him to call off the mob. Trump initially refused to acknowledge they were his supporters, falsely telling McCarthy they were supporters of the antifa movement.
When McCarthy corrected him, Trump reportedly said, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
It’s also likely that Trump spoke to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an ardent supporter of the former president whom McCarthy had tried to name to the select committee before being blocked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California). Jordan admitted late last month that he, too, had conversations with Trump on January 6.
It is entirely possible that McCarthy, Jordan and other lawmakers could be subpoenaed to testify about conversations with Trump that took place on January 6. Commission chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) said in an interview with The Guardian in July that “nothing is off limits” when it came to securing such testimonies.
“If somebody spoke to the president on January 6, I think it would be important for our committee to know what was said,” Thompson explained. “I can’t imagine you talk about anything else to the president on January 6.”