New Jan. 6 witness: Trump had mystery call with Putin

Last updated on July 4, 2022

If documentary filmmaker Alex Holder’s memory is accurate, Donald Trump was on the phone with Vladimir Putin just minutes after the news broke that the Russian president had dismissed Trump’s Hunter Biden allegations. Holder began filming former President Donald Trump in September 2020 during his campaign for reelection. In the runup to the election and continuing after they left office, Holder had extensive access to film and interview Trump, his inner circle and former Vice President Mike Pence.

The House select committee investigating Jan. 6 recently sent a subpoena to Holder for raw footage related to interviews and discussions Holder recorded, as well as raw footage from Jan. 6 when Holder and his cameraman were there filming as the mob attacked the Capitol. On Thursday, shortly after Holder finished talking to Jan. 6 investigators, Ryan Lizza met Holder at his hotel. On this week’s Playbook Deep Dive, Holder talks about what it’s like behind the scenes filming Trumpworld, the significance of his project and potential impact of the footage subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 Committee.

On Thursday, we noted that during a trip aboard Air Force One, a scheduled interview between Holder and Trump was abruptly canceled. Holder told us a bit more about that trip, and it turns out to be much more interesting than we knew.

Holder traveled with then-President Trump on Sunday, Oct. 25, three days after the second presidential debate and nine days before Election Day. That day, Trump flew from Washington to New Hampshire, then on to Maine, and then back to Washington. But White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Holder that something had come up and the planned interview was nixed.

“My memory is,” Holder told us, “that the chief of staff sort of came over and said that the interview couldn’t happen today because the president was on the phone. And I believe, if I remember correctly, that he said that he was on the phone to the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, which is why the interview had to be postponed.”

Well that certainly piqued our curiosity. Why would Trump be having an apparently unscheduled Sunday chat with Putin during a packed day of campaigning in New England nine days before the election?

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after a campaign rally.

Donald Trump boards Air Force One after a campaign rally in Londonderry, N.H., on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020.

One explanation could be that Trump and Putin were reportedly trying to negotiate an arms control agreement, as Axios’ Dave Lawler and Alayna Treene reported on Oct. 11, 2020. And indeed, on Oct. 26, the Kremlin released a statement about its views on several security issues in Europe.

But one top Trump official involved in those talks told POLITICO that he had no recollection of a Trump-Putin call during that period.