Trump dismisses January 6 call log gap, deflects blame for riots

In Washington Post interview, former US president says he wanted to take part in march on Capitol that turned into riot.

Former US President Donald Trump
'From the standpoint of telephone calls, I don’t remember getting very many,' Trump tells the Washington Post [File: Ben Gray/AP Photo]

Former US President Donald Trump has deflected blame for the deadly January 6 riots, dismissing an hours-long call gap in the White House’s call log during his supporters’ march on the US Capitol early in 2021.

In an interview with the Washington Post, published on Thursday, Trump said he wanted to march on the Capitol with his supporters, but was stopped by the Secret Service. He also reiterated unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 elections.

US media outlets reported last week that a congressional panel investigating the 2021 riots discovered a seven-and-a-half hour gap in the White House call records at the time when rioters were ransacking the Capitol.

“From the standpoint of telephone calls, I don’t remember getting very many,” Trump told the Washington Post.

According to US news reports, the January 6 panel is probing the gap in the phone records, including the possibility that disposable phones may have been used to conceal the then-president’s calls that day.

Trump denied destroying call records or using disposable phones on January 6, 2021.

Trump’s supporters had violently breached the Capitol on January 6 to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory, halting procedures and sending lawmakers into hiding. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died during or in the aftermath of the incident.

Democrats have said the riots amount to an insurrection that aimed to reverse the election result and keep Trump in power. The House of Representatives impeached Trump in his final days in office, accusing him of inciting the violence.

Trump had addressed his supporters at a rally near the White House before the riots, stressing the false allegation that the election was “stolen” and urging the crowd to “fight like hell”.

In his interview with the Washington Post, Trump blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for failing to stop the violent protest on January 6.

“I hated seeing it. I hated seeing it. And I said, ‘It’s got to be taken care of,’ and I assumed they were taking care of it,” he said.

Pelosi’s office dismissed the former president’s assertion as “desperate lies”, saying that the speaker shared responsibility for the Capitol at the time with then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump also confirmed that he has communicated with Virginia Thomas, the wife of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his presidency.

Virginia Thomas has faced criticism for recently discovered text messages calling on then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to push to overturn election results.

The revelations have led to a Democratic-led push for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from 2020 election-related cases.

The January 6 congressional panel has been seeking testimonies and records from Trump’s top aides and family members.

The committee conducted lengthy interviews with Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump on Tuesday and her husband, Jared Kushner, last month. Both had served as key White House advisers.

On Wednesday, the US House voted to hold former Trump aides Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas from the January 6 panel. The vote formally referred the two former Trump advisers to the Department of Justice, making them subject to possible prosecution.

Last year, the Department of Justice charged former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and adviser Steve Bannon with contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the January 6 committee.

Violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
The Justice Department has charged hundreds of Trump supporters for participating in the January 6 riots ([File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]

The Department of Justice is also conducting its own investigation into the riots, with more than 750 people charged with federal crimes related to the incident. Last month, a Texas man was convicted of interfering with police officers who were guarding the Capitol – among other charges – in the first January 6 trial.

But on Wednesday, the first January 6 defendant was acquitted in court after arguing that he thought he was allowed into the Capitol by police officers.

Trump himself has not faced any charges for the riot. And he was acquitted in a Senate trial following the House impeachment in 2021. The Senate acquittal allows Trump to run for federal office again – something he has not ruled out.

He told the Washington Post that other potential candidates for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination would not run against him if he decided to seek the presidency again.

Grover Cleveland is the only US president to serve non-consecutive terms, having been elected for his second spell at the White House in 1892.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies