New court papers first reported by Politico reveal that the special counsel investigating former President Trump secured a search warrant for his Twitter account back in January.
The documents, which were unsealed Wednesday, show that prosecutors exploring Trump’s role in the January 6 attack extended their search to Trump’s communications over social media — particularly the platform he used to direct insurrectionists at the Capitol that day.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” Trump wrote in a tweet as events at the Capitol unfolded. “USA demands the truth!”
A federal judge signed the search warrant in January and allowed prosecutors to secretly obtain access to the Twitter account to preclude giving Trump “an opportunity to destroy evidence, change patterns of behavior, [or] notify confederates,” according to the documents.
Trump’s tweets were cited widely in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of the former president, revealed last week. Smith charged Trump with four felonies related to his alleged efforts to overturn and undermine the results of the 2020 U.S. election.
In light of his activity on the platform, Twitter permanently banned the then-president on January 8, 2021. After taking over at the company and rebranding it X, current owner Elon Musk reversed the ban and reinstated Trump’s account. The former president, who is again running in 2024, never returned to Twitter and now speaks directly to his followers on Truth Social.
“Just found out that Crooked Joe Biden’s DOJ secretly attacked my Twitter account, making it a point not to let me know about this major “hit” on my civil rights,” Trump posted to Truth Social on Wednesday. “… Did Deranged Jack Smith tell the Unselects to DESTROY & DELETE all evidence? These are DARK DAYS IN AMERICA!”
It’s not immediately clear from the unsealed search warrant why the special counsel sought access to Trump’s Twitter. The search warrant presumably would give the investigation access to his DMs, but also might help the investigation confirm the provenance of any tweets issued on January 6 from the account.
Twitter apparently dragged its feet in complying with the special counsel’s search warrant, providing the requested information behind the deadline. The delay resulted in the court holding Twitter in contempt and a $350,000 fine, after the company apparently unsuccessfully objected to the nondisclosure order paired with the request.
A few details in the newly unsealed papers suggest that the normal pathways for legal requests at the company now known as X were dysfunctional as of January.
“The government faced difficulties when it first attempted to serve Twitter with the warrant and nondisclosure order,” according to the documents. “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.”