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Special counsel feared violence if Trump learned of Twitter warrant

The documents also revealed the special counsel team only received "32 direct-message items" when Twitter finally turned over the requested data.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Newly unsealed court documents show special counsel Jack Smith raised concerns that alerting Donald Trump to the government’s search warrant of his Twitter account could lead to violence as it did following the FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. 

Smith’s concerns stem from arguments by Twitter, renamed X by new CEO Elon Musk, that a non-disclosure order violated the company’s First Amendment rights to communicate with its users, an argument that a federal judge viewed as an attempt by Musk to “cozy up” to the former president after he was reinstated on the site. 

Trump was booted from Twitter following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol; he recently posted again on the site for the first time, sharing a campaign fundraising message featuring his mug shot taken at the Fulton County Jail in Georgia last month. 

The document, a reply brief written by James Pearce from Smith’s team, was filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals this past April, as Twitter challenged a $350,000 fine levied by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell for failing to turn over access to Trump’s account. 

When Smith did receive data from Twitter, they only found "32 direct-message items on his account. According to prosecutors, Twitter tried to delay turning over all the data they had from Trump’s account over concerns that executive privilege may apply to some of the messages, which Howell soon rejected. 

Twitter had proposed disclosing the search to a “representative” of the ex-president who could tell him there was a warrant for his account without providing precise details. Pearce wrote that the plan was simply “untenable” as many of the suggested representatives were attorneys who still represented Trump. 

But prosecutors argued that providing any details to Trump posed a “significant risk of tampering with evidence, seeking to influence or intimidate potential witnesses, and ‘otherwise seriously jeopardizing’ the government’s ongoing investigations.”

They said Trump has a habit of blatantly disregarding the law and cannot be trusted with even the basic knowledge the government is trying to obtain data from his Twitter account.

“These are not hypothetical considerations in this case,” Pearce wrote. “Following his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, the former president propagated false claims of fraud (including swearing to false allegations in a federal court filing), pressured state and federal officials to violate their legal duties, and retaliated against those who did not comply with his demands, culminating in violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.” 

Even after Jan. 6, Trump tried to undermine the government’s investigation into his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. 

“The former president’s obstructive efforts continue unabated with respect to this investigation here, in which he has determined to pay the legal fees of potential witnesses against him and repeatedly disparaged the lead prosecutor on his Truth Social platform,” Pearce added. “[T]his pattern of obstructive conduct amply supports the district court’s conclusion that the former president presents a significant risk of tampering with evidence, seeking to influence or intimidate potential witnesses, and ‘otherwise seriously jeopardizing’ the government’s ongoing investigations.” 

After Trump publicly announced the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate, threats against federal law enforcement surged, leading to the fatal shooting of a man who tried to breach an FBI building in Cincinnati. 

Twitter tried to argue that if they were to share details about the government’s search warrant, it was unlikely it would lead to any violence as much of Smith’s investigation into Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election had already been widely reported. 

In the end, that argument was rejected by both Howell and the D.C. Circuit panel. Twitter now requests an en banc hearing before the circuit’s full bench to continue challenging their fine. 

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Categories:Criminal, National, Politics

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