Federal court claimed Trump was flight risk in decision to keep search warrant for X account secret

"The district court found that there were 'reasonable grounds to believe' that disclosing the warrant to former President Trump 'would seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation.'"

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

In an appeals ruling published on Wednesday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia suggested that 2024 GOP frontrunner Donald Trump was a flight risk, and that the nondisclosure order issued to X, formerly known as Twitter, by Biden's Department of Justice was done to avoid Trump fleeing from prosecution or destroying evidence.

The opinion, which was argued before the court in May and published on Wednesday, stated that the Stored Communications Act allowed for the government "to seek a nondisclosure order, which directs service providers 'not to notify any other person' of a warrant or order’s existence 'for such a period as the court deems appropriate.'"

A court "shall enter" a nondisclosure order if "there is reason to believe that notification of the existence of the warrant," or order will result in: "(l) endangering the life or physical safety of an individual; (2) flight from prosecution; (3) destruction of or tampering with evidence; ( 4) intimidation of potential witnesses; or (5) otherwise seriously jeopardizing an investigation or unduly delaying a trial," the court opinion stated.

In a footnote, the court wrote that the lower court, whose decision X was appealing, "also found reason to believe that the former President would 'flee from prosecution.'"

"The government later acknowledged, however, that it had 'errantly included flight from prosecution as a predicate' in its application," the opinion noted, adding "the district court did not rely on risk of flight in its ultimate analysis."

On January 17, Biden’s Department of Justice applied for and obtained a search warrant for Trump’s X account, as well as a nondisclosure order that prohibited X from disclosing the existence of the search warrant.

"Moreover, the district court found that there were 'reasonable grounds to believe' that disclosing the warrant to former President Trump 'would seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation' by giving him 'an opportunity to destroy evidence, change patterns of behavior, [or] notify confederates,'" the opinion stated.

The warrant ordered X to hand over the requested information by January 27, with the nondisclosure order remaining in place for 180 days after its issuance.

X took issue with the nondisclosure order, stating that it violated the First Amendment, and initially didn’t comply with the warrant. The social media platform eventually complied, though missed the deadline, and was fined $350,000.

The search warrant was filed in connection to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into alleged attempts by Trump to overturn the 2020 election, for which an indictment was handed down earlier this month.

Trump was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction, and conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted.

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