Special counsel Jack Smith got a search warrant for data and records related to former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, as part of his investigation into efforts to block President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win, new court records show.
The warrant ordered the social media platform, now known as X, to hand over “data and records” related to the former president’s account, according to the records. The court also issued a nondisclosure order barring Twitter from telling anyone — including Trump — about the warrant for 180 days.
The company eventually complied days after a court-mandated deadline in February.
In a redacted, 34-page opinion released Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the government got a warrant for Trump’s Twitter account in January. The government also got a nondisclosure order because a district court determined that telling Trump about the warrant “‘would seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation’ by giving him ‘an opportunity to destroy evidence, change patterns of behavior, [or] notify confederates,’” according to the appellate court.
The government tried to serve the warrant shortly after it was issued but ran into website problems that delayed service of the paperwork for days. Later, when authorities asked Twitter’s counsel about the status of their request, the attorney said she had yet to hear about the warrant.
The company later objected to producing Trump’s account information, arguing that the nondisclosure order violated its First Amendment rights and the Stored Communications Act — a law that establishes how authorities can get evidence from electronic service providers in criminal cases. However, the court declined to halt its order and set a new deadline for Twitter to turn over information on Trump’s account. Court records show that Twitter gave investigators some of the requested information before the deadline.
“Although Twitter ultimately complied with the warrant, the company did not fully produce the requested information until three days after a court-ordered deadline,” according to the appellate court. “The district court thus held Twitter in contempt and imposed a $350,000 sanction for its delay.”
In the opinion released Wednesday, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision to hold Twitter in contempt and level the company with a $350,000 sanction.
It was not immediately clear why Smith requested Trump’s information from Twitter.
On Wednesday, the former president accused the Justice Department of having “secretly attacked my Twitter account, making it a point not to let me know about this major ‘hit’ on my civil rights.”
“My Political Opponent is going CRAZY trying to infringe on my Campaign for President,” he wrote in a social media post. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. Does the First Amendment still exist?”
Authorities in Washington, D.C., Florida and New York have charged Trump with dozens of alleged crimes, accusing him of mishandling confidential records, perpetrating a scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and falsifying business records to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges, framing investigations into his conduct as politically motivated.
Authorities in Georgia are expected to announce this month whether charges will be filed as part of an investigation into attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in the state.
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