Federal Appeals court denies challenge by Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) to search warrant for Donald Trump’s DMs
US Federal Court has ruled against a challenge from Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) over an official request to access data from the account of former US President Donald Trump.
CNBC reported that a federal appeals court on Tuesday has denied X’s latest challenge to a non-disclosure order it received, as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s search warrant issued for former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account.
Special counsel Jack Smith had been appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate Trump’s role in the 6 January United States Capitol attack, as well as Trump’s mishandling of government records, including classified documents.
According to CNBC, Smith served X with a search warrant for Trump’s account data in January 2023.
At the same time, Smith obtained a non-disclosure order that banned X from disclosing the search warrant to Trump or anyone else.
In granting Smith’s request to keep the warrant a secret, a federal district court said it was reasonable to believe disclosure of the request would “result in destruction of or tampering with evidence, intimidation of potential witnesses, and serious jeopardy to the investigation.”
However X (under Elon Musk) initially refused to comply with the warrant.
As a result, the district court in Washington, DC, held X in contempt and fined it $350,000.
X ultimately turned over the data Smith was seeking, CNBC reported,
CNBC also reported that in August, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had rejected X’s first appeal of the order.
But in September, X reportedly asked for a rehearing before the appeals court’s entire slate of judges – arguing that the previous decision was made in error.
And put before 11 judges on the appeals court, X’s challenge was again denied in Tuesday’s order, CNBC reported.
But four conservative-leaning judges of the 11 judges (that includes three who were appointed by Trump), strongly criticised the courts that had permitted Smith to get the search warrant in secret.
“We should not have endorsed this gambit,” a statement attached to the order denying X’s bid for a rehearing, reads.
“Rather than follow established precedent, for the first time in American history, a court allowed access to presidential communications before any scrutiny of executive privilege,” read the statement penned by Judge Neomi Rao.
Smith’s efforts “obscured and bypassed any assertion of executive privilege and dodged the careful balance Congress struck in the Presidential Records Act,” argued Rao.
A spokesman for Jack Smith reportedly declined to comment on the court filing.
CNBC noted that Trump had nominated Rao to the appeals court in 2019. Her statement was joined by Judges Gregory Katsas and Justin Walker, who were also nominated by Trump, and Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was nominated in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush.
Trump had been banned on almost all social media platforms for his role in inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol building on Wednesday 6 January 2021, which resulted in the deaths of at least five people (including one police officer who was beaten to death).
Trump made a number of unsuccessful legal attempts to have his account reinstated, but before Elon Musk took control of Twitter, he pledged to reverse the “stupid” Twitter ban on Trump.
Shortly after Musk’s takeover in late October 2022, Twitter reinstated Donald Trump’s account that currently has 87.4 million followers, after an online poll conducted by Elon Musk came out narrowly in favour of the move.
Trump’s sole post on his Twitter account since then has been a picture of mugshot in August 2023, after he was booked on 13 charges due to his efforts to reverse Georgia’s 2020 election results – charges that include racketeering, conspiracy, and soliciting a public official to violate their oath of office.