The U.S. special counsel investigating Donald Trump obtained a search warrant for the former president’s Twitter account in January, but the company delayed complying, according to a U.S. appeals court opinion on Wednesday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has affirmed a federal trial judge’s decision to fine Twitter (now known as X) $350,000 (nearly Rs. 30 crore) in contempt of court.

Twitter raised First Amendment concerns about the nondisclosure order issued in response to the search warrant because the company wanted to notify Trump of the matter, the ruling said.

“In the circumstances, the Court ultimately found Twitter’s contempt of court and imposition of a $350,000 sanction was not an abuse of discretion,” the ruling said.

In a post on his social media site Truth Social, Trump said the Justice Department “secretly hacked my Twitter account to keep me from knowing about this major ‘hit’ to my civil rights.”

Prosecutors routinely ask judges not to notify targets of subpoenas in criminal investigations to protect their investigations, a practice cited by an appeals court ruling Wednesday.

A spokesman for Smith declined to comment, and a spokesman for X did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday’s opinion did not identify which judge held Twitter in contempt.

While Trump’s tweets are publicly viewable, the company also has non-public information about the account, such as direct messages, tweet drafts, location data and the type of device used to send the tweet.

The opinion stated that the arrest warrant was related to Smith’s investigation into the siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters while Trump was still in office on January 6, 2021.

Trump, a Republican, pleaded not guilty last week to an indictment accusing him of conspiring to overturn the November 2020 election results he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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