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Special counsel Jack Smith obtained a search warrant for the Twitter account of Donald Trump as part of his criminal investigation of the former president, an appeals court decision revealed Wednesday.
Twitter, now known as X, initially delayed production of the materials required by that warrant as it filed a court action seeking to block an order that it not disclose the existence of the warrant, the 34-page decision says.
The ruling by the U.S. Court Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower-court judge’s $350,000 contempt sanction on the social media company for failing to comply with the warrant until after a three-day deadline.
Smith’s office argued, and the lower-court judge agreed, that if Twitter notified Trump of the warrant’s existence it would put the investigation at risk and give him a chance to destroy evidence that was sought by the warrant.
Twitter was bought last year by Elon Musk, the billionaire who also heads Tesla, SpaceX. He recently renamed the company X.
Smith’s office applied for and obtained the warrant on Jan.17.
The warrant “directed Twitter to produce data and records related to the ‘@realDonaldTrump’ Twitter account,” according to the appeals court ruling.
The special counsel at the same time obtained a non-disclosure order from a Washington, D.C., federal district court judge that “prohibited Twitter from disclosing the existence or contents of the search warrant to any person.”
“The district court found probable cause to search the Twitter account for evidence of criminal offenses,” the decision noted.
“Moreover, 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 ruling says.
A spokesman for Smith declined to comment to CNBC on the ruling.
Spokesmen for X did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment
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