DOJ Dropped Its Subpoena For NunesAlt Twitter Account One Week After Twitter Called Bullshit On Its Demands

from the so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-wasted-tax-dollars-and-goodwill dept

Well, that was fast. I mean, this all actually happened a few months ago but the unsealing process makes this all seem very sudden.

Yesterday, it was revealed that the Trump DOJ sent a subpoena to Twitter demanding personal information related to the NunesAlt account — one of several Rep. Devin Nunes has unsuccessfully tried to sue for defamation. It seemed very strange that the DOJ would be involved, but Nunes developed a close relationship with Trump over the past four years and it certainly appeared that this was some prime White House backscratching.

The subpoena was delivered to Twitter last November. On March 10, Twitter filed its motion to quash, noting Nunes’ multiple attempts to sue satirical Twitter accounts, his lack of success in doing so, and his apparent attempts to use federal law enforcement resources to engage in discovery for him.

It also noted the DOJ’s subpoena made no mention as to why Twitter should turn over this information. It wasn’t until Twitter called the AUSA who signed the subpoena that it was provided answers. The answers were incomplete. The DOJ claimed it was part of an investigation into threats allegedly made by the account. But the DOJ refused to show Twitter the alleged threats, much less answer any of its other questions.

A week later (but only one day later for us, thanks to a gag order being tossed into the spacetime continuum), the DOJ dropped its request [PDF] for this Twitter users’ info. As was the case with the subpoena sent to Twitter, there’s not a whole lot of information in the DOJ’s withdrawal of its information demand.

The United States of America, by and through its undersigned counsel, respectfully submits under seal this memorandum in opposition to Twitter, Inc.’s motion to quash grand jury subpoena and to vacate non-disclosure order.

On March 17, 2021, counsel for the United States informed counsel for Twitter, Inc. that the grand jury subpoena at issue is withdrawn. The term of the nondisclosure order has ended. As there is no dispute between the parties, Twitter, Inc.’s motion should be denied as moot.

Given this swift dismissal of its demand for info — one supposedly tied to a super-serious investigation into “threatening communications in interstate commerce” (a complicated way of saying the internet was involved) — it’s difficult to believe this was anything other than a fishing expedition performed on behalf of Devin Nunes, who has had zero success talking courts into compelling the unmasking of his critics. If the DOJ really had anything worth investigating, it wouldn’t have abandoned its efforts at the first sign of resistance.

And we can’t let this whole thing pass by without noting how gag orders disrupt the justice system and keep the public from learning what’s being done with their tax dollars. Finding out about something like this six months after it was initiated and two months after the DOJ called it quits is ridiculous. The only thing protected here was the DOJ’s shoddy reputation as a mere extension of President Trump’s will while he and Bill Barr were still in control. That the DOJ refused to show Twitter the alleged threats strongly suggests it was attempting to turn heated (but protected) speech into a criminal act to help Devin Nunes out with his defamation lawsuits.

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Comments on “DOJ Dropped Its Subpoena For NunesAlt Twitter Account One Week After Twitter Called Bullshit On Its Demands”

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16 Comments
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That One Guy (profile) says:

Bravely ran away away...

That the DOJ refused to show Twitter the alleged threats strongly suggests it was attempting to turn heated (but protected) speech into a criminal act to help Devin Nunes out with his defamation lawsuits.

That they all but immediately dropped the demand for information over what they originally claimed was a serious case of threats being made once Twitter pushed back further solidifies the idea that this was nothing more than the DOJ acting as Nunes’ attack dog, trying to get from a subpoena filed by the DOJ what he’s failed to get in court personally, or at the very least yet again engage in intimidation of anyone who might have anything less than gushing praise for him.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The changeover in leadership may have helped quash the subpoena, but the fact that it was ever issued in the first place — and the notion that people who helped craft this subpoena are still working at DOJ after the presidential transition — raises questions the DOJ should be answering.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Both valid points. But I think it’s more likely the change in admin led to a "WTF?" moment rather than "bravely ran away" in the face of opposition. But who knows, it may have taken the motion to quash to get anyone from the new administration to re-examine the whole scenario/"investigation".

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Whether what was done was legal or not is irrelevant. It was definitely corrupt and improper. Anyone involved in furthering this within the DOJ should be fired. In a just world, they would be disbarred as well, if lawyers.

The legal system works on what is basically an "honour system" (and not being American, I stand by that spelling). Lawyers – in all forms – are expected to be ethical, as defined by the state bars. The trouble is that, although I have no doubt that most are, there are so many that aren’t and it takes so long for the courts to recognize their misbehaviour and act meaningfully, that it seems to me that the whole system is in danger of collapse or such disdain that the rule of law itself is in danger of collapse. Perhaps it is time to take the monitoring and disciplining of lawyer out of their own hands and give to an independent body. Of course, then you would have the risk of regulatory capture, but if the regulators were subject to legal challenge and all citizens were given automatic standing, perhaps that could be avoided.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Whoever says:

Consequences

There needs to be some firings for this obviously partisan and unconstitutional action.

It wasn’t just Barr: lawyers at the justice department must have either lied or at least misled the grand jury to get this subpoena. In fact, the whole existence of the grand jusy was probably a partisan and unconstitutional act.

Fire them!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I know I feel much safer that the resources of the top justice agency are being put to use to unmask people who hurt Nunes’s feels.

They had a grand jury seated for "threats" SOOOOOOO dangerous that they couldn’t dare repeat them because that might wish them into reality.

Perhaps it is time to consider purging the staff & starting over.
Do we really want an AUSA who will do political bidding with no pushback, empowered to do whatever he wants?

Of course another way to see this is that if you speak ill of our betters they will unleash their secret police to find you & cause you all sorts of problems because you made Devin sad.

I only vaguely am aware of Cow & the others but I know for sure, that Cow makes sure the herd does NOT make threats & it is clear that they are not tolerated.

People who joust with those in power learn an important lesson early on, there is a line. Once you cross that line you’ve completely undone anything good you might have gotten done. You being labeled the bad guy, for making a stupid threat, gives the actual bad guy the ability to just point to that over & over as a reason to not take you seriously.

The corruption in DC is much much deeper than anyone wants to admit, but when you can get a grand jury to unmask a citizen using their 1st Amendment right to anonymously call out someone in power who is abusing it by claiming unspecified "threats" that magically evaporated in the daylight… One has to wonder why the DOJ is doing the bidding of 1 Congressman who has been unsuccessful in his legal pursuits & demands the DOJ get him the name.

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