Elon Musk’s X social-media platform, formerly known as Twitter, gave the Justice Department at least 32 of Donald Trump’s direct messages in February in response to a search warrant stemming from the government’s probe into 2020 election fraud, according to newly unsealed documents.
(Bloomberg) — Elon Musk’s X social-media platform, formerly known as Twitter, gave the Justice Department at least 32 of Donald Trump’s direct messages in February in response to a search warrant stemming from the government’s probe into 2020 election fraud, according to newly unsealed documents.
The contents of the messages weren’t revealed, but the communications could emerge as crucial pieces of evidence at trial as Special Counsel John “Jack” Smith, who indicted Trump on Aug. 1, seeks to prove that the former president knowingly spread false claims that the election was rigged.
The revelation about how many of Trump’s private messages were turned over to Smith’s office was included in a sealed May 5 filing by Twitter with the federal appeals court in Washington. The document, made public by the court Friday, is part of Twitter’s ongoing fight to overturn a $350,000 fine for missing a judge’s deadline to comply with the warrant.
At the heart of the fight is Twitter’s argument that the Justice Department violated its First Amendment right to free speech by blocking the company from alerting Trump that his messages were being sought through a government warrant — a standard warning to customers that is one of Twitter’s policies.
Smith’s office accused Trump of conspiring to defraud the US by attempting to remain in office after he lost the election to Joe Biden — an alleged scheme that culminated in a violent attack on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump’s supporters. It’s one of four criminal prosecutions Trump is facing as he campaigns to return to the White House in 2024.
Read More: Twitter Fined $350,000 in Secret Fight on DOJ Trump Warrant
Trump denies wrongdoing and claims all the cases are part of a Democratic “witch hunt” against him. The former president, banned from Twitter after the insurrection, was invited back by Musk and returned to the platform briefly last month to post his mug shot from his criminal case in Georgia.
Twitter’s May filing also said the government hadn’t properly considered its argument that Trump could assert presidential executive privilege over the direct messages. Twitter described the messages as “precisely the sort of private communications triggering a potential privilege claim.”
The newly unsealed filings also reveal new details about the government’s arguments for trying to keep the warrant secret, including concerns that disclosing the search “could precipitate violence.” The company called that worry “facially implausible.”
A three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously rejected Twitter’s free-speech concerns and agreed that the government — which was worried that Trump could delete evidence or obstruct the probe — had rightfully sought to keep the warrant secret. Twitter is now seeking an “en banc” review of that decision by a larger panel of appeals-court judges.
Smith’s office “identifies no harm that would have arisen from waiting just 48 hours to adjudicate Twitter’s First Amendment challenge before compelling production on the warrant,” Twitter said in the filings, which called the fine “unprecedented and unjustified.”
The case is 23-5044, US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit (Washington).
–With assistance from Zoe Tillman.
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