Special Counsel Jack Smith overcame a bruising battle of motions and litigation to get an incredible haul of private DMs, tweet locations, and deleted tweets, all from Twitter.
It seems that Trump — a man who notoriously never emailed or texted — believed that his Twitter DMs were safe since Twitter is public and that no one would ever subpoena his account.
But Jack Smith did for two reasons.
First, Smith wanted to place Trump at the time and location the tweet was sent.
Second, Smith wanted to see if Trump had DMs, erased tweets, or any other incriminating communications.
Smith got a haul in Direct Messages which is stunning from a student of Roy Cohn, famous for never putting anything in writing. Perhaps, he just believed that Twitter was too remote and wouldn’t happen.
The really odd part is that Twitter litigated the subpoena so vigorously when it has a history of cooperating with subpoenas.
Indeed, we wouldn’t even know about this subpoena without Twitter appealing a fine leveled against them for being three days late in delivering the discovery.
According to Politico, this was no normal discovery battle. It led to veteran DC Circuit Court Judge Beryl Howell wondering if Twitter’s owner was trying to do the former president a favor — or perhaps even make Trump aware of the fact that Twitter had to turn over the records.
Indeed, Jack Smith’s team did everything they could do to keep the Twitter subpoena secret and continually reinforced the need for secrecy.
From Politico’s report:
“Ultimately, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell held Twitter (now known as X) in contempt of court in February, fining the company $350,000 for missing a court-ordered deadline to comply with Smith’s search warrant. But the newly unsealed transcripts of the proceedings in her courtroom show that the fine was the least of the punishment. Howell lit into Twitter for taking ‘extraordinary’ and apparently unprecedented steps to give Trump advance notice about the search warrant — despite prosecutors’ warnings, backed by unspecified evidence, that notifying Trump could cause grave damage to their investigation.”
Judge Howell had good reason to suspect that Twitter was acting “differently” in this case and had a specific question for Twitter’s counsel: “Is this to make Donald Trump feel like he is a particularly welcomed new renewed user of Twitter?”
Twitter attorney George Varghese of WilmerHale said that Twitter was merely protecting its constitutional rights.
“Twitter has no interest other than litigation its constitutional rights,” replied attorney George Varghese of WilmerHale, the firm Twitter deploys for much of its litigation.
But Howell returned to the theme repeatedly during the proceedings, wondering why the company was taking “momentous” steps to protect Trump that it had never taken for other users.
In the hearing on Feb. 7, 2023, Howell referenced Musk, asking: “Is it because the new CEO wants to cozy up with the former president?”
The documents sought by the warrant include:
- Accounts associated with @realdonaldtrump that the former president might have used in the same device.
- Devices used to log into the @realdonaldtrump account.
- IP addresses used to log into the account between October 2020 and January 2021. Privacy settings and history
- All tweets “created, drafted, favorited/liked, or retweeted” by @realdonaldtrump, including any subsequently deleted.
- All direct messages “sent from, received by, stored in draft form in, or otherwise associated with” @realdonaldtrump
- All records of searches from October 2020 to January 2021
- Location information for the user of @realdonaldtrump from October 2020 to January 2021
Shockingly, according to Erin Burnett of CNN, there are hundreds of documents behind the “tweetwall” that he actually sent out to the world.
According to Burnett’s CNN report:
“I remember when [we broke the news] that there was this warrant. Now he’s got it. 500 pages of this back and forth. You mentioned DMs might be a part of it. This is a former president who didn’t text and did not email. Apparently, there’s a voluminous amount of direct messages, some of which were deleted, others that had confidential information, that were in this account.”
For the man who famously never emailed, never texted, never even took notes, for fear of leaving evidence. Donald Trump might have thought that Twitter is simply too remote, all his tweets are “out there,” who would ever subpoena his records?
Jack Smith, that is who. And we can take this to mean that Smith has far more than just Twitter records.
And given the fact that the haul from Twitter was huge, there are likely other big, unknown, hauls out there.
This column is based on an original report by Kyle Cheney of Politico.
I can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @JasonMiciak.
Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece reflecting the opinion of the author alone