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Judge Claimed Trump Might Flee If He Learned of Secret Order

A federal judge claimed that former President Donald Trump might flee if he learned of a secret warrant, according to newly unsealed documents.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said that “immediate notification to the customer or subscriber of the TARGET ACCOUNT(S) would seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation, as such a disclosure would give that person an opportunity to destroy evidence, change patterns of behavior, notify confederates, and flee from prosecution,” according to a filing from Twitter that was among those unsealed by the judge on Aug. 15.

Judge Howell, appointed under President Barack Obama, entered the non-disclosure order at the request of the special counsel Jack Smith’s team.

The order prevented Twitter, now known as X, from alerting President Trump about the warrant, which forced Twitter to provide extensive data from President Trump’s account to Mr. Smith’s team.

Mr. Smith’s team wrote in a filing, also unsealed this week, that the court should approve the non-disclosure order because the former president might try to flee if the order was not entered.

Keeping the warrant secret “furthers several additional governmental interests, including (1) ‘prevent[ing] the escape’ of individuals who may be indicted,” Mr. Smith’s team claimed.

Twitter objected to the claims from Mr. Smith and Judge Howell, arguing that “there is no reason to believe that notification of this latest search warrant in this investigation would suddenly cause former President Trump or any potential confederates to destroy evidence, intimidate witnesses, or to flee prosecution.”

“The former President has announced that he is running for re-election in 2024, which renders it highly implausible that he will attempt to flee the country, and even more unlikely that such flight would be precipitated by this specific warrant,” Twitter lawyers said in the Feb. 2 filing.

In a hearing on Feb. 7, Judge Howell said that she understood Twitter wanted to have the non-disclosure order modified to take out the “potential risk of flight by the president.”

“Although he does have properties overseas that would be probative,” she said.

The risk of flight claim “doesn’t make a lot of sense,” one Twitter lawyer said later.

“I would agree with that,” Judge Howell said.

Prosecutors recanted the claim in their formal response to Twitter later in February, writing that they included the language in error.

The application for the order (NDO) “errantly included flight from prosecution as a predicate,” Mr. Smith’s team said. “The government now seeks to strike from the NDO this language, which can be found at the bottom of page two of the NDO.”

It’s not clear if that language was eventually struck.

Portions of Judge Howell’s order were previously made public by an appeals court, which backed her decision to approve the warrant and order.

Warrant Approved, Reaffirmed

The warrant was approved on Jan. 17, the same day it was requested.

Judge Howell also that day entered the non-disclosure order, which was then challenged by Twitter.

Mr. Smith obtained the warrant as part of his probe into President Trump’s effort to investigate the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Smith has since brought charges against the former president, including conspiracy and obstruction.

Twitter said it should be able to notify President Trump about the warrant because the matter might involve executive privilege issues since the data included messages that Twitter says were “confidential communications” between President Trump and senior advisers. Letting President Trump know would enable him to challenge the warrant, Twitter said, and was allowed under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

“All we’re trying to do is exercise our First Amendment rights to notify the user so the user may assert that privilege if he chooses,” a Twitter lawyer said in the hearing.

Government lawyers said there was no evidence that confidential communications were among the data they sought and that the government’s compelling interest in keeping the warrant secret from President Trump overrode any rights of Twitter. Judge Howell sided with the government, ordered Twitter to comply with the warrant, and denied its request to modify or vacate the non-disclosure order.

Twitter eventually produced an extensive amount of information to Mr. Smith’s team, including deleted messages, draft posts, and location data of users who posted to President Trump’s account.

President Trump has decried the development, writing on Truth Social that the actions were aimed at infringing on his 2024 presidential campaign. He added, “Does the First Amendment still exist?”

  • Mike from Missouri says:

    A man, like President Donald J. Trump, who loves America with all his heart, would never even think of fleeing.

    Best keep an eye on that jack wagon, Biden, his family and other high profile democrats.
    If they try to leave, make sure it’s in a body bag.

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