Special investigator Jack Smith requested access to former President Trump’s private messages, unsent tweets, and location data from his account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Court documents recently made public shed light on the specifics the prosecutors were after when they issued a subpoena for the former president’s Twitter data in January. This move was approved by the courts.
These documents emanate from February court sessions presided over by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell at the time. She probed if the reluctance shown by the platform, under its then-recent CEO Elon Musk, was an attempt to foster a closer relationship with Trump.
Twitter’s initial hesitancy to provide the requested data stemmed partly from the Justice Department’s desire to keep the subpoena hidden from Trump. They faced a penalty of $350,000 for their initial non-compliance.
However, the platform also expressed concerns that some of Trump’s private messages might fall under executive privilege, especially if they pertained to official state matters discussed with administration members.
The records reveal the extent of Smith’s inquiry. He also sought data on any tweets drafted but later deleted and all searches linked to the account.
Interestingly, much of the subpoenaed data does not seem to be mentioned in the indictment by a grand jury earlier this month, which mainly cites Trump’s public tweets.
A focal point of contention between both sides was the evidence the prosecutors had to justify their warrant. Twitter contested that given the public nature of the investigation, there was no reason to keep Trump in the dark.
During one session, Judge Howell told representatives from both DOJ and Twitter, “You aren’t fully aware of the specifics of the very warrant you are here to discuss.”
The frustration of the prosecutors with Twitter’s reluctance is evident in the transcripts. DOJ lawyer Thomas Windom mentioned his exasperation over prior discussions, stating the urgency of needing the requested materials.
Following a ruling by Judge Howell, Twitter went to an appellate court but was unsuccessful. The appeals court believed Judge Howell was right in withholding the search details from Trump.
Highlighting the reason for their decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. remarked that revealing the warrant to Trump might have compromised the investigation by allowing the destruction of evidence or alerting associates.
Trump criticized the investigation into his Twitter activities. Despite the legal process that led to the search warrant, he likened the prosecutors’ actions to an unauthorized intrusion.
On Truth Social, Trump expressed his outrage, stating, “It’s outrageous for prosecutor Jack Smith to access my Twitter without notifying me. What else is there to discover that isn’t already public knowledge?”