US special counsel gets access to Trump’s Twitter DMs

Twitter initially refused to comply with the court order to turn over the documents, a choice that would have cost them $350,000. A large portion of Twitter’s resistance to turning over the material was due to a Justice Department desire to not divulge the request to Trump.

As his office fought for material pertaining to former president Trump’s account on the site now known as X, special counsel Jack Smith attempted to study the former president’s direct chats, draft tweets, and location data.

More information about what the prosecutors were seeking when they subpoenaed materials pertaining to the Twitter account in January is provided by recently disclosed court documents.

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The information comes from hearings held in February before Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court at the time. Howell frequently questioned whether the company’s resistance was a result of newly appointed CEO Elon Musk’s attempts to become “cozy” with Trump.

Twitter initially refused to comply with the court order to turn over the documents, a choice that would have cost them $350,000. A large portion of Twitter’s resistance to turning over the material was due to a Justice Department desire to not divulge the request to Trump.

However, the company also voiced concern in the transcripts that some of Trump’s direct messages would fall under presidential privilege if he was speaking with other government officials about official matters.

The records demonstrate the breadth of the material that Smith was looking for, which also covered any tweets that had been written or prepared but later deleted, as well as all searches related to the account.

As Twitter argued there was no need to conceal the search from Trump given the public knowledge about the investigation, some of the disagreements between the two sides focused on the breadth of the evidence prosecutors used to support their request for a warrant to access the account.

During one of the discussions with attorneys from the DOJ and the company, Howell remarked, “You don’t even know the half about the very warrant you are coming in here to delay the execution of.”

The recordings also demonstrate the prosecutors’ level of annoyance with Twitter’s refusal to send over the requested documents, with DOJ lawyer Thomas Windom complaining about earlier phone conversations to resolve issues before testifying in court.

“For the 20 minutes we had been talking, I had felt like I was being nickeled and dimed. The content is necessary. The time is now. 13 days ago, we required it, he said.

In the end, Twitter attempted to challenge Howell’s decision, but their efforts were rejected by an appeals court, which ruled that Howell had the right to keep Trump’s information about the search a secret.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia noted in its decision that “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.”