Newly unsealed court records indicate special counsel Jack Smith’s team warned that former President Trump could “precipitate violence” unless the court shielded its efforts to obtain information on his Twitter account.
The records show Smith’s office obtained a total of 32 direct messages from Trump’s account as part of its investigation, with a copy of the warrant also unsealed Friday showing the breadth of the information prosecutors sought.
The 71-page filing from prosecutors, submitted to the court in April but unsealed Friday, offers new details about why Smith’s team feared alerting Trump to the matter.
The secret battle to obtain the records was revealed in an opinion unsealed in August, showing that Twitter, now known as X, was fined $350,000 for not complying with a court order to turn over the records.
Earlier unsealed court records showed the special counsel was concerned that if Trump knew about the warrant to access his account he could disclose it to the public, something they said “could precipitate violence as occurred following the public disclosure of the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago.”
The arguments were made as X appealed a lower court order to turn over the information to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
While prosecutors reiterated prior arguments that Trump could jeopardize the case if the warrant was disclosed, it cites Trump’s past behavior as the need to do so.
“These are not hypothetical considerations in this case. 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 January 6,” prosecutors wrote.
“More recently, the former President has taken several steps to undermine or otherwise influence the investigation into the potential mishandling of classified information following the end of his presidency, including publicizing the existence of the Mar-a-Lago Warrant.”
The filing goes on to detail Trump’s offer to pay the legal fees of those who might otherwise be witnesses against him.
“This 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,” they wrote.
The filing leaves unclear the content of the 32 direct messages Trump exchanged on the platform, with the detail only used to combat arguments from X’s attorneys that such messages might be covered under executive privilege.
“Twitter offers no reason to conclude that the former President, with the full array of communication technologies available to the head of the Executive Branch, would have used Twitter’s direct message function to carry out confidential communications with Executive Branch advisors,” prosecutors wrote.
The unsealed search warrant, first signed in January, shows prosecutors were seeking extensive information about Trump’s X account, including all IP addresses and devices that accessed the account. DOJ also wanted to review all tweets, even those drafted and deleted, and a list of every account Trump block or who blocked Trump.
Prosecutors likewise asked for location data associated with the account for the months leading up to the election through January 2021 as well as every tweet the former president liked or those who tweeted at him for the same time period.
X fought the warrant on numerous grounds, including making a First Amendment argument and also claiming that disclosure to Trump would not be harmful, as he knew he was being investigated and some details about the probe had become public.
The appeals court ultimately sided with prosecutors and the lower court, calling the Department of Justice’s concerns “unquestionably compelling.”
“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 appeals court noted in its ruling.
This story was updated at 2:27 p.m.