A tranche of court filings unsealed Friday revealed prosecutors and a federal judge’s fear that former President Donald Trump could unleash violence if he was told that a search warrant had been issued for his Twitter account, as part of a long-running dispute over Twitter, now known as X, and the company’s compliance with the warrant.
Justice Department prosecutors served Twitter with a search warrant in January for Trump’s Twitter data as part of its investigation into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election—which resulted in him being indicted—with the social media company eventually being sanctioned for $350,000 and held in contempt after it initially failed to fully comply.
Twitter opposed the DOJ’s request for a non-disclosure order that would keep Trump from finding out about the search warrant, claiming the warrant could include material that should be shielded under executive privilege.
In a district court order from January that was unsealed Friday, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled there was a “reasonable” basis to believe that if Trump knew about the search warrant, it “will result in destruction of or tampering with evidence, intimidation of potential witnesses, and serious jeopardy to the investigation.”
In a filing unsealed Friday, the DOJ argued to an appeals court that it wasn’t “hypothetical” that Trump could try to jeopardize the investigation by tampering with witnesses or destroying evidence if he knew about the search warrant, noting Trump’s efforts to try and overturn the election, that he’s “taken several steps to undermine or otherwise influence” a separate investigation into classified documents at Mar-A-Lago, including by “publicizing the existence” of a search warrant in that case, and his threats against prosecutors in the post-election case.
Prosecutors also argued that if Twitter told Trump about the warrant, it “could precipitate violence as occurred following the public disclosure of the search warrant executed at Mar-A-Lago.”
Twitter claimed in a court filing responding to the DOJ that the prospect of violence was “facially implausible” and continued to argue Trump should be told about the warrant, but the appeals court disagreed, calling the company’s arguments “unpersuasive” and saying that telling Trump “would not have safeguarded the security and integrity of the investigation.”
“Providing the Warrant to the former president at this point in the investigation would … provide him with considerable ammunition to engage in the same kind of obstructive efforts” that he’s undertaken in the multiple investigations against him, prosecutors argued in the filing, which is dated April 21.
32. That’s how many direct messages Twitter turned over to prosecutors from Trump’s account, the new filings reveal. The DOJ noted those messages constitute only a “miniscule proportion” of the total data provided, after Twitter argued Trump should be told about the warrant because his direct messages could include privileged information. The search warrant served to Twitter, also unsealed Friday, asks for all of Trump’s Twitter data from between October 2020 and January 2021, along with information about the devices he used, his privacy settings, location information and any searches he did.
Trump has heavily opposed the government’s search warrant for his Twitter account since the news was made public, as well as the DOJ’s efforts to hide it from him. “How dare lowlife prosecutor, Deranged Jack Smith, break into my former Twitter account without informing me and, indeed, trying to completely hide this atrocity from me,” Trump wrote on Truth Social in August. “What could he possibly find out that is not already known.”
Special counsel Smith and the DOJ ultimately indicted Trump on four felony counts for his post-election efforts, as part of the investigation that included the Twitter dispute. The former president has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., obstruction and conspiracy against rights, which stem from his scheme to overturn the results and such actions as trying to block Congress from certifying the vote count. Trump faces up to 55 years in prison if he were convicted on all counts and given the maximum sentence, along with potential fines. The indictment—one of four against the former president—frequently cites Trump’s tweets as evidence of his attempts to overturn the election. The court filing pulls out such posts as him urging his supporters to attend a rally on January 6—saying, “Be there, will be wild!”—and repeatedly trying to publicly pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify the results. The existence of the Twitter search warrant was first revealed in August, when court documents were unsealed days after Trump’s indictment that revealed the legal dispute.
DOJ Secretly Got Search Warrant For Trump’s Twitter Account In Jan. 6 Probe—And Twitter Fined $350,000 For Missing Deadline (Forbes)
Federal Investigators Were Granted Access To Trump’s Twitter Data And DMs Earlier This Year After Special Counsel Warrant (Forbes)