Special counsel Jack Smith obtained a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account in January, newly released court documents reveal.
A federal judge held Twitter, now known as X, in contempt for delays in compliance with the warrant and fined the company $350,000. The judge’s decision was upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. last month in a sealed opinion. A redacted version of that opinion was released by the court Wednesday, bringing the previously unreported legal battle into the light.
“Just found out that Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ secretly attacked my Twitter account, making it a point not to let me know about this major “hit” on my civil rights,” Trump posted on Truth Social Wednesday after the court documents were unsealed. “My Political Opponent is going CRAZY trying to infringe on my Campaign for President. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Does the First Amendment still exist? Did Deranged Jack Smith tell the Unselects to DESTROY & DELETE all evidence? These are DARK DAYS IN AMERICA!”
According to court documents, Smith’s warrant was served with a nondisclosure order that prohibited Twitter from notifying anyone about the existence of the warrant. Twitter challenged the nondisclosure order, but was unsuccessful. The company did not hand over the requested materials while the litigation was ongoing.
Though Twitter eventually complied with the warrant, Trump’s account, @realDonaldTrump, was not turned over to Smith’s investigation until three days after a court-ordered deadline, the documents state.
In a 34-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Twitter’s contention that the nondisclosure order violated the First Amendment and that the federal judge who issued the warrant — U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell — should have stopped it from being served until the dispute was resolved.
The appellate judges sided with Howell, reasoning that any disclosure of the warrant “would seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation” by giving Trump “an opportunity to destroy evidence, change patterns of behavior, [or] notify confederates.”
READ THE COURT DOCUMENTS BELOW. APP USERS: CLICK HERE
Twitter suggested two less restrictive alternatives to the nondisclosure order, one of which was to only alert Trump and his legal team, which the court said was a “nonstarter.”
“[T]he whole point of the nondisclosure order was to avoid tipping off the former President about the warrant’s existence,” wrote Judge Florence Pan, a Biden appointee. The other judge on the panel were Michelle Childs, a Biden appointee, and Cornelia Pillard, an Obama appointee.
The panel said the disclosure order was temporary and “narrowly tailored” to Smith’s investigation. The judges observed that Twitter “remained free to raise general concerns about warrants or nondisclosure orders, and to speak publicly about the January 6 investigation.”
Reached for comment, X said, “we’ll get back to you soon.”
Trump was indicted and arraigned last week on charges that he attempted to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election.
The former president and current front-runner in the 2024 GOP presidential primary is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.