A federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama took action against former President Donald Trump earlier this year, a move that may lead critics of the legal cases against Trump to believe they are largely politically motivated.
In January, then-Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of the District of Columbia ruled that it was unnecessary to inform Trump about special counsel Jack Smith’s access to the former president’s Twitter account through a search warrant. The ruling was ostensibly made to prevent Trump from potentially tampering with evidence or intimidating potential witnesses, as reported in a Friday article by The Messenger.
“The Court finds reasonable grounds to believe that such disclosure will result in destruction of or tampering with evidence, intimidation of potential witnesses, and serious jeopardy to the investigation,” she wrote in an order on Jan. 17, 2023, one of many files recently added to the federal court docket.
The outlet added:
The two-page order is just one of the blockbuster filings in a much larger, 403-page document.
The newly unsealed order does not mention Trump by name, except by reference to a target account, but it became public on the docket associated with prosecutors’ obtaining a search warrant for the former president’s Twitter account and an order gagging the company from disclosing it.
In the same order, Howell made a claim that some experts found unreasonable, suggesting that she believed Trump might attempt to evade prosecution. However, prosecutors later withdrew this allegation, and Howell clarified that her decision to grant Smith secret access to Trump’s Twitter, now known as “X,” was not based on this observation, as reported by The Messenger.
In a hearing initially kept confidential, George Varghese, the attorney representing X from the Washington, D.C.-based firm WilmerHale, argued, “The risk of a former President of the United States fleeing doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“I would agree with that,” Howell responded.
Recently unsealed documents include Smith’s initial request, in which he sought access to all of Trump’s tweets from October 2020 to January 2021. This request encompassed not only the tweets themselves but also deleted tweets, multimedia content, metadata, logs, direct messages, and other related data, as detailed by The Messenger.
Also recently unsealed is a legal brief prepared by Smith’s team in May that argued disclosing the warrant to Trump “could precipitate violence as occurred following the public disclosure of the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago.”
“Twitter had opposed the request and lost, receiving $350,000 in sanctions for non-compliance. In August, unsealed filings revealed that Smith’s legal team obtained access to those direct messages, and the filings indicate that there were only 32 of those messages,” the outlet reported.