Special counsel Jack Smith obtained an extraordinary array of data from Twitter about Donald Trump’s account — from direct messages to draft tweets to location data — newly unsealed court filings reveal.
But it took a bruising battle with Twitter’s attorneys in January and February — punctuated by a blistering analysis by a federal judge, who wondered whether Elon Musk was attempting to “cozy up” to the former president by resisting the special counsel’s demands — before prosecutors got the goods.
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.
“Is this to make Donald Trump feel like he is a particularly welcomed new renewed user of Twitter?” Howell asked.
“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 uses. 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?” [Continue reading…]