The special counsel’s investigation into Donald Trump obtained a search warrant for the former president’s Twitter account. @realDonaldTrumpAccording to the newly unsealed court filing.
The search was so secret that Twitter was initially barred from saying that a search warrant had been obtained for Trump’s account, and the company, now known as “X,” was fined $350,000 because it delayed producing records requested under the search warrant.
Search warrant special counsel Jack Smith requested “data and records” related to Trump’s account, and eventually, the platform was allowed to share some information about the search warrant with the former president.
The special counsel’s office, which is now working on a criminal case against Trump in DC District Court related to his efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election, sought the warrant in January 2023.
Twitter eventually made records, According to the filingNow public in the US Circuit Court of Appeals.
Twitter and special counsel Jack Smith’s office have been litigating for months over whether Trump should have been told about the search warrant.
The controversy came to light Wednesday when the DC Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision that upheld how the district court handled the dispute, including imposing sanctions on the company that missed a deadline to produce information within three days.
The district court, according to the DC Circuit’s opinion, found that “former President Trump had “reasonable grounds to believe” that disclosure of the warrant would “seriously prejudice the ongoing investigation.” [or] Notify the confederates.”
The district court concluded that the nondisclosure order was necessary because it “found reason to believe that the former president would ‘survive prosecution,'” a footnote says.
“However, the government later admitted that it had ‘included escape from prosecution as a pretext’ in its application,” the footnote said. “The district court did not rely on flight risk in its ultimate analysis.”
The site — renamed “X” during its legal dispute with prosecutors — did not object to producing the records requested by Smith, but argued that the ban on informing Trump about the search warrant violated the First Amendment and the Stored Communications Act. The law governs how third-party websites can be forced to turn over user records.
During the trial, the non-disclosure order was amended to allow Twitter to “inform the former president of the existence and contents of the warrant,” but require information about the case agent to be withheld from the investigation.
Prosecutors changed their stance to allow certain disclosures due to ‘additional information’ related to the former president’s investigations. [that became] A non-publication order will be made available to the public after it is issued,” the judgment said.
There were signs in court of a sealed legal battle between the special counsel’s office and a major tech company. But until the DC Circuit issued its ruling on Wednesday, most information about the case remained shrouded in secrecy.
The appellate ruling, which was written by Circuit Judge Florence Bann and concurred in by the circuit judges J. Michael Childs and Nina Billard, published in July. An unsealed version was modified for public release on Wednesday.
It said there were “difficulties” when Smith’s office first tried to serve Twitter with a search warrant and non-disclosure order.
Pan and Childs was nominated by President Joe Biden; Barack Obama’s pillar.
Prosecutors first tried to serve a warrant to Twitter for legal requests on January 17, 2023 through its website, “only to discover that the website was down,” the ruling said. Two days later, lawyers contacted Twitter through the same website and were successfully served.
However, the following week, prosecutors contacted Twitter’s attorney to verify their compliance with the search warrant. “We haven’t heard anything about him,” a Twitter adviser said [the] [w]Arrant,” according to the order.
By the first week of February, Twitter had asked the DC District Court to vacate the non-disclosure order, arguing that they could tell Trump about the warrant. A district judge denied that request, and Twitter turned over the records on February 9.
In March, Twitter asked the DC Court of Appeals to uphold the district court’s nondisclosure order. Prosecutors amended the order in June to allow some information to be released to Trump.
This story has been updated with additional details.