Newly released court documents reveal Special Counsel Jack Smith obtained a search warrant for former president Donald Trump’s Twitter account in January.
Twitter delayed compliance and did not fully produce the information requested on the “@realDonaldTrump” account until three days after the court’s deadline, leading a federal judge to hold Twitter in contempt and issue a $350,000 sanction, according to a document revealed Wednesday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the lower court’s decision in July.
The district court initially issued a nondisclosure order barring Twitter from notifying anyone about the warrant, which Twitter contested as a violation of the First Amendment and the Stored Communications Act.
Judge Florence Pan, a Biden appointee, wrote that the district court acted “within the bounds of its discretion” when it declined to hold enforcement of the warrant until after the First Amendment claim was litigated and “followed the appropriate procedures” before finding Twitter in contempt of court. Pan also rejected Twitter’s First Amendment claims.
“Importantly, Twitter remained free to raise general concerns about warrants or nondisclosure orders, and to speak publicly about the January 6 investigation,” Pan wrote, later noting that “the whole point of the nondisclosure order was to avoid tipping off the former President about the warrant’s existence.” (RELATED: Jack Smith’s Charges Against Trump Wouldn’t Hold Up At The Supreme Court, Legal Experts Say)
Issues with Twitter’s website presented the government with “difficulties when it first attempted to serve Twitter with the warrant and nondisclosure order,” according to the document.
“On January 17, 2023, the government tried to submit the papers through Twitter’s website for legal requests, only to find out that the website was inoperative,” the document states. “Two days later, on January 19, 2023, the government successfully served Twitter through that website. On January 25, 2023, however, when the government contacted Twitter’ s counsel to check on the status of Twitter’ s compliance, Twitter’ s counsel stated that she “had not heard anything about [the] [w]arrant.”
Smith secured an indictment against Trump on four charges related to his alleged attempt to interfere in the 2020 election, which the former president pleaded not guilty to last week in Washington, D.C. He previously brought 37 charges against Trump for his alleged mishandling of classified documents.
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