While you may not think an innocent retweet or comment on former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account (now known as X) is anyone’s business but your own, special counsel Jack Smith begs to differ.
In a stunning breach of your personal privacy, court documents released by the Department of Justice on Monday show that Smith made a list of everyone who ever interacted with Trump on the social media giant’s platform, including liking, sharing, following, or even mentioning the GOP frontrunner.
Smith has wasted no time in abusing his “power” to prove that Trump was behind the “election interference” activities that led up to the incident on January 6th.
Smith’s deep dive into Trump’s social media activity included issuing a warrant for the former president’s ad preferences, account settings, support communications, private messages, and all IP addresses used to access his account.
The warrant requested the names of every user Trump had followed, muted, blocked, unfollowed, unmuted, or unblocked on the platform and those who had interacted with his account similarly.
More concerning to Americans, the search warrant additionally demanded “all information from the ‘Connect’ or ‘Notifications’ tab for the account, including all lists of Twitter users who have favorited or retweeted tweets posted by the account, as well as all tweets that include the username associated with the account (i.e., “mentions” or “replies”).”
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued the search warrant in January and special instructions that Trump was not to be notified of the extensive invasion of his accounts. Surprisingly, Twitter balked at this requirement, citing concerns about First Amendment and Stored Communications Act violations.
It should come as no surprise that Judge Tanya Chutkan, the federal judge presiding in the “election interference” case, sided with Smith and leveled a $350,000 fine against Twitter for contempt of court. In July, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, forcing the tech giant to comply.
Smith doubled down on his request for secrecy, claiming that notifying this “sophisticated actor with an expansive platform would result in a statutorily cognizable harm.”
“The Non-disclosure Order was granted based on facts showing that notifying the former president would result in destruction of or tampering with evidence, intimidation of potential witnesses, or other serious jeopardy to an investigation or delaying of trial,” he argued.
Federalist’s editor-in-chief, Mollie Hemingway labeled Smith’s request a “dystopian nightmare” of government overreach. In contrast, legal reporters such as Politico’s Kyle Cheney aimed to allay concerns by claiming that the specifics of Smith’s search warrant had been public knowledge for months and had been extensively covered.
Cheney tweeted, “For some reason, the pro-Trump crowd has only just discovered tonight the search warrant for Trump’s Twitter account that was publicly unsealed and extensively reported about in August.”
In mid-August, news reports primarily emphasized the revelation of the warrant’s existence and the sought information from Trump himself, giving less emphasis to how Trump’s followers might also be implicated in Smith’s inquiry.
While Smith’s censored warrant gained widespread attention when initially disclosed on Aug. 15 within a 207-page submission, it attracted renewed focus from conservative media after an identical version surfaced on a different court docket on Monday night. It’s important to note that the last seven pages of the warrant are entirely redacted.
Although CBS and similar outlets did mention by Sept. 15 that Smith was seeking the identities of accounts that liked or retweeted
Trump’s posts, this information was overshadowed by the disclosure that Smith had acquired 32 direct messages from Trump’s account.
The extent of the materials prosecutors acquired from Twitter remains unclear, as does the part the information plays in Smith’s inquiries into the former president’s activities during the 2020 election. Because more than 87 million users followed Trump’s account, it’s estimated that millions upon millions of individuals have had their information collected.
However, it will be some time before Americans understand the scope of the data collected or its role in the investigation. On November 29, an order in the case temporarily thwarted any attempts by X or media intervenors to see details about the heavily redacted search warrant. Chief Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued the block, citing an “undeniable need” to safeguard Smith’s investigation from harassment and intimidation.
It would appear that America’s “undeniable need” to be safe from invasive searches is not a priority for the DOJ, especially as it attempts to piece together an unfounded case against an unpopular GOP challenger.