The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has dealt a striking blow to Jack Smith’s investigation, establishing a precedent that may carry implications for executive privilege and the separation of powers.
Issued on Tuesday, the court’s ruling centers on the search for information stored on premises controlled by Twitter. This case, drawing national attention, focuses on the Special Counsel’s efforts to circumvent traditional executive privilege protections in the examination of President Trump’s Twitter communications.
The court’s document strongly asserted that “judicial disregard of executive privilege undermines the Presidency, not just the former President being investigated in this case.”
The ruling harshly criticized Smith’s approach, highlighting a search warrant and nondisclosure order that prohibited X/Twitter from informing Trump about Jack Smith’s subpoena.. The court pointed out, “This unprecedented approach is mistaken for at least three reasons,” emphasizing the departure from historical practices and the crucial constitutional protection afforded to executive privilege.
From ABC News:
The full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected an effort by Twitter to appeal a ruling that allowed special counsel Jack Smith to access records from former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account as part of his federal election interference probe.
As ABC News previously reported, the social media company secretly tried to fight an effort by Smith to obtain metadata and a handful of direct messages allegedly sent by Trump from his Twitter account before the account was suspended shortly after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Holy sh*t: 4 judges on DC appellate court just delivered a scorching smack down of Special Counsel Jack Smith, Judge Beryl Howell, and Judge Florence Pan for search of Trump’s Twitter file.— Julie Kelly 🇺🇸 (@julie_kelly2) January 16, 2024
“The Special Counsel’s approach obscured and bypassed any assertion of executive… pic.twitter.com/jwIIIxeZPB
A pivotal issue in the case revolved around President Trump’s use of Twitter. The Special Counsel contested Twitter’s executive privilege concerns, arguing that there was “no plausible reason to conclude that the former President … would have used Twitter’s direct-message function to carry out confidential communications.”
Four Judges of DC Circuit Court of Appeals Excoriate Prior Executive Privilege Ruling, and The Admitted Scheme of Special Counsel Jack Smith – The Last Refuge https://t.co/RLOJPaPGI6— Riverside24 (@Riverside24JS) January 17, 2024
However, the court emphasized that President Trump utilized his Twitter account for official business, suggesting the potential presence of privileged material on his account.
The ruling also delved into the broader implications for the separation of powers, stating, “The absence of a presumptive privilege particularly threatens the Chief Executive when, as here, a third party holds presidential communications.”
This signals the potential for future conflicts in similar cases.
Moreover, the court criticized both the district court and the Special Counsel for their handling of executive privilege claims, stating, “Without a word, the district court and our court have flipped the presumption.”
In a decisive conclusion, the court dismissed the appellant’s petition for rehearing en banc, with no member of the court requesting a vote on the matter. This decision represents a significant setback for Special Counsel Jack Smith.
The court’s firm stance may well establish the precedent for how similar issues are addressed in the future. Smith was appointed as special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland to oversee the Department of Justice’s investigations into President Trump.
These investigations included matters related to the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and portions of the January 6 investigation.