Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith obtained a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account as part of his investigation into Jan. 6, 2021.
A federal court decision revealed on Aug. 9 that Smith applied for and received the search warrant on Jan. 17, 2023.
Twitter, which has been rebranded as X, was compelled by a district court to “produce information to the government related to the Twitter account ‘@realDonaldTrump’” and was served a nondisclosure order which prohibited the company from “from notifying anyone about the existence or contents of the warrant.”
“Although Twitter ultimately complied with the warrant, the company did not fully produce the requested information until three days after a court-ordered deadline,” stated the decision from the D.C. Court of Appeals. “The district court thus held Twitter in contempt and imposed a $350,000 sanction for its delay.”
Twitter had filed a sealed lawsuit but was unable to get the nondisclosure order dismissed. The court said the company’s lawsuit “delayed production of the materials required by the search warrant.”
“In this appeal, Twitter argues that the nondisclosure order violated the First Amendment and the Stored Communications Act; that the district court should have stayed its enforcement of the search warrant until after Twitter’s objections to the nondisclosure order were resolved; and that the district court abused its discretion by holding Twitter in contempt and imposing the sanction. We affirm the district court in all respects,” the court continued in the unanimous decision.
Smith’s office had argued that the nondisclosure order was necessary to prevent the company from notifying Trump about the warrant. The DOJ argued Trump’s awareness of the warrant could have put the investigation at risk as he may have had the opportunity to destroy the evidence they were seeking to access.
Twitter “argued that by keeping the warrant secret from Trump, he would be unable to shield communications made using his Twitter account from prosecutors by asserting executive privilege” and that it had a right under the First Amendment to communicate with its subscriber.
Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter in the days after the security breach at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The platform was later purchased by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk and Trump’s account was subsequently reinstated.
“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,” said Trump on Truth Social. “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!” he added.
The panel of judges who heard the appeal included Judge J. Michelle Childs and Judge Florence Pan, who were both appointed by President Joe Biden, and Judge Cornelia Pillard, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.