Special counsel Jack Smith sought to review former President Trump’s direct messages, draft tweets, and location information as his office battled for information related to his account on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Newly unsealed court records offer more detail about what prosecutors were looking for when they subpoenaed records related to the Twitter account in January, a request granted by the court.
The details come from February hearings held before then-U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who repeatedly questioned whether the company’s resistance reflected an effort by then-newly minted CEO Elon Musk’s efforts to get “cozy” with Trump.
Former President Donald Trump addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 24, 2023.
Much of Twitter’s resistance to turning over the information was due to a Justice Department request to not disclose the request to Trump, initially refusing to comply with the court order to turn over the records in a decision that would cost them $350,000.
But in the transcripts, the company also expressed fear some of Trump’s direct messages could be covered by executive privilege if he was communicating about state business with other administration officials.
The documents show the scope of the information sought by Smith, which also included information on any tweets that had been created or drafted and then subsequently deleted, as well as all searches connected to the account.
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Much of the information sought from the search doesn’t appear to have been referenced in the four-charge indictment handed down by a grand jury earlier this month, instead only referencing Trump’s publicly available tweets.
Some of the arguments between the two parties centered on the extent of the evidence prosecutors used to back their request for a warrant to access the account, and Twitter sought to argue there was no need to shield the search from Trump given public information about the investigation.
“You don’t even know the half about the very warrant you are coming in here to delay the execution of,” Howell said during one of the meetings with attorneys from DOJ and the company.
The transcripts also show the degree of frustration from prosecutors over the resistance from Twitter to turning over the subpoenaed materials, with DOJ attorney Thomas Windom complaining about earlier phone calls to address concerns prior to appearing in court.
“I had felt like I had been getting nickeled-and-dimed for the prior 20 minutes of conversation. We need the material. We need it now. We needed it 13 days ago,” he said.
Twitter ultimately appealed Howell’s ruling on the matter only to be rebuffed by an appeals court, which said she rightly withheld details of the search from Trump.
“The district court found that there were ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ that disclosing the warrant to former President Trump ‘would seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation’ by giving him ‘an opportunity to destroy evidence, change patterns of behavior, [or] notify confederates,’” the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. noted in its ruling.
Trump has railed against the search of his Twitter account, accusing prosecutors of “breaking into” his account despite their ability to convince a judge to sign off on a search warrant to do so.
“How dare lowlife prosecutor, Deranged Jack Smith, breaking into my Twitter account without informing me and, indeed, trying to completely hide this atrocity from me,” Trump posted to Truth Social this week. “What could he possibly find out that is not already known.”
–Updated at 11:48 a.m.