Twitter, now known as X, was initially resistant to complying, resulting in a $350,000 fine from the district court. The social media giant argued that the warrant’s nondisclosure order, which prohibited it from notifying anyone about the warrant, violated the First Amendment. Twitter ultimately complied with the order several days after the February deadline.
News about the warrant was revealed in a federal appeals court decision rejecting Twitter’s claim that a lower court judge shouldn’t have held the company in contempt of court and imposed the fine.
“We affirm the district court in all respects,” the appeals court wrote in its July ruling.
Twitter’s non-compliance came under the tenure of billionaire Elon Musk, who finalized his purchase of the company in October. Musk has been vocal about protecting what he views as free speech on the platform and has reinstated several previously banned accounts, including those belonging to Trump, neo-Nazis and other alt-right figures. However, Musk also temporarily banned the accounts of journalists who’ve covered his Twitter acquisition, its tumultuous aftermath and the company’s plummeting value.
News of Smith’s search warrant comes about a week after his investigation into Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and his effort to thwart democracy resulted in yet another indictment for the former president. Trump was charged with four criminal counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of an official proceeding.
Trump, who’s running for the GOP’s presidential nomination, pleaded not guilty and denies any culpability.
He was also charged with dozens of counts in two other indictments: a New York case concerning a hush money payment made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels and a federal case over his handling of classified government documents.
The former president is also facing a potential indictment regarding his attempts to falsify 2020 election results in Georgia.
CORRECTION: A prior version of this story incorrectly said the Justice Department fined Twitter. It was the district court that did so.