The release of redacted search warrants and documents unveiled Special Counsel Jack Smith’s pursuit of information concerning users engaging with former President Donald Trump’s social media posts, particularly on Twitter. The heavily redacted warrant issued to Twitter in January sought a plethora of data from Trump’s account, spanning from advertising information and IP addresses used for the account to the content of tweets, direct messages, and search history during October 2020 to January 2021.
This disclosure was pursued by media organizations aiming to shed light on the Smith-led special counsel’s investigation into Trump’s actions leading up to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Smith had previously indicted Trump on charges linked to his contestation of the 2020 election results before the Capitol incident. The warrants also revealed the broad scope of Smith’s inquiry, extending beyond Trump’s account to include data on users interacting with Trump’s tweets, encompassing those who followed, interacted, or engaged with his posts.
Smith’s warrant aimed to acquire information on users who engaged with Trump’s tweets, targeting those who liked, retweeted, or mentioned the former president’s account in the months preceding January 6, 2021. Despite Twitter’s initial resistance and arguments regarding First Amendment concerns, the social media platform eventually complied with the warrant but faced a fine for not meeting the special counsel’s deadline.
The court filings highlighted Smith’s attempt to prevent notification to Trump about the data seizure, citing potential harm and tampering with evidence or intimidation of witnesses as reasons for non-disclosure. Smith’s actions, including seeking a gag order on Trump’s criticism against the government, have faced backlash for potentially infringing upon the former president’s First Amendment rights. This was compounded by the approval of the gag order by Judge Tanya Chutkan, known for partisan rulings and an Obama appointee.
Trump’s legal team has appealed the gag order, emphasizing its unconstitutional nature and has threatened to take the matter to higher courts. Conservatives view Smith’s actions and the court’s rulings as an overreach of government power, with concerns over the potential stifling of free speech and privacy rights, creating a worrisome precedent for government intrusion into social media interactions.