Washington DC: Revelations of a roughly eight-hour gap in official records of then-President Donald Trump’s phone calls on the day of last year’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol are raising fresh questions about the diligence — or lack thereof — of his record-keeping.
The committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021, riot has identified a gap in records that stretches a little after 11 a.m. to about 7 p.m. that day and involves White House calls, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Trump didn’t comment Tuesday, but attention surrounding the gap comes alongside a separate potential legal and political headache for the Republican ex-president — the recovery earlier this year of 15 boxes, including records containing classified information from Trump’s White House tenure, from his Mar-a-Lago vacation home in Florida.
The 1978 law requires the preservation of White House documents as property of the U.S. government.
The law was passed in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal when a collection of secret tapes that President Richard Nixon had considered destroying played a defining role.
In theory, the law would require the preservation of emails, text messages, and phone records — no matter the device used for the communication, said presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky.
The problem is, there’s no real mechanism to enforce the law, and there’s also never been a case where a former commander in chief has been punished for violating the Presidential Records Act. The statute by definition depends on the goodwill of presidents and their staff to police their own record keeping.