Twitter fined for belatedly complying with search warrant for Donald Trump's account

The social network took too long to turn over data to the January 6th investigation.

Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Special counsel Jack Smith was granted a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account as part of his investigation into the events of January 6th, 2020. The warrant was first reported by Politico after court documents detailing the warrant surfaced.

Smith obtained the warrant in January, but had trouble getting the records from Twitter. First, his investigators apparently encountered an “inoperative” website typically used for law enforcement to make legal requests. After they were able to serve the warrant, Twitter was slow to respond, according to court records.

The issue, according to newly unsealed court documents, was a nondisclosure agreement that barred Twitter from disclosing the existence of the warrant, including to Trump. The company argued it had a First Amendment right to notify Trump about the warrant, which resulted in months of legal wrangling between Twitter and the special counsel’s office.

The court sided with the government and Twitter was required to hand over the data. During the litigation, the government amended the nondisclosure order to allow Twitter “to notify the former President of the existence and contents of the warrant” provided they withheld the identity of the case agent.

But the company missed a court-ordered deadline for turning over all its records, and was fined $350,000 after being held in contempt. “Although Twitter ultimately complied with the warrant, the company did not fully produce the requested information until three days after a court-ordered deadline,” the filing states.

The legal wrangling underscores the role Trump’s Twitter account played in the events of January 6th. The company suspended the @realdonaldtrump account the evening of the riot after he tweeted support for the violent mob. Trump’s account was reinstated after Elon Musk acquired the company last year, but the former president has yet to return to the platform.

The company, now known as X, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.