During a recent court hearing, a federal judge expressed skepticism regarding Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, and his motivations for delaying the company’s response to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s search warrant demands. The investigation revolves around allegations that former President Donald Trump attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In January, Smith and his team obtained a search warrant for records from Trump’s personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump. The existence of the search warrant became public on August 9, but the specific details of the requested data 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 probing questions. She criticized Twitter’s lawyer for persistently arguing that it was necessary to inform Trump about the warrant, stating that such notifications are not typically given when prosecutors obtain search warrants for user accounts. Expressing her suspicions, Judge Howell questioned whether Twitter’s insistence on notifying Trump about the warrant was driven by a desire to gain favor with the former president. She asked if it was because the CEO wanted to develop a closer relationship with Trump.
Furthermore, Judge Howell examined whether Twitter’s efforts to notify Trump about the warrant were intended to make him feel particularly welcomed and valued as a returning user of the platform. Twitter’s legal team maintained that their actions were motivated by a commitment to uphold their constitutional rights.
As a consequence of the delay in complying with the warrant, Judge Howell imposed a $350,000 fine on Twitter. Prosecutors eventually obtained various pieces of information, including direct messages linked to the account and device connections.
Once an active Twitter user, Trump was banned from the platform following the January 6 insurrection in 2021. Although his Twitter account was 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.