During a recent hearing, a federal judge expressed skepticism over whether Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, was attempting to foster a closer relationship with former President Donald Trump by delaying the company’s response to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s search warrant demands.
The backdrop to this controversy is an investigation into allegations that Trump sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In January, Smith and his team secured a search warrant for records from Trump’s personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump.
The news regarding the search warrant became public on August 9, but the specific data that Smith and his team aimed to access remained undisclosed.
A transcript of the federal court hearing between US District Judge Beryl Howell, Twitter’s legal representatives, and government counsels revealed Judge Howell’s pointed inquiries. She criticized Twitter’s lawyer for their persistent stance on the necessity of alerting Trump about the warrant. Judge Howell noted that such notifications aren’t typical when prosecutors obtain search warrants for users’ accounts.
Expressing her suspicions, Judge Howell questioned whether Twitter’s insistence on informing Trump about the warrant was motivated by a desire to curry favor with the former president. She asked, “Is it because the CEO wants to cozy up with the former President, and that’s why you are here?”
Furthermore, Judge Howell probed whether Twitter’s efforts to notify Trump about the warrant were intended to make him feel especially welcomed and valued as a renewed user of the platform. Twitter’s legal team maintained that their actions were driven by a commitment to defend their constitutional rights.
As a result of the delay in compliance with the warrant, Judge Howell imposed a fine of $350,000 on Twitter. Eventually, prosecutors managed to obtain various pieces of information, including direct messages associated with the account and device connections.
Formerly an active Twitter user, Trump was banned from the platform following the January 6 insurrection in January 2021. Despite having his Twitter account reinstated in November 2022 after Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform, Trump now exclusively uses Truth Social, a social media platform established by a media and tech company he founded.