The media this week attempted to paint a Justice Department subpoena as an abuse of power by the Trump administration. It was no such thing.
The story, according to MSNBC, is that the DOJ under Trump went after a parody Twitter account that got under the skin of Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). The truth, however, is that Nunes had nothing to do with the DOJ’s subpoena, which was actually about a threat made to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The truth was uncovered by The New York Times:
The Trump-era Justice Department’s attempt to identify the person behind a Twitter account devoted to mocking Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California, stemmed from a U.S. Capitol Police investigation into a purported online threat to Senator Mitch McConnell, not to Mr. Nunes, according to two law enforcement officials.
The Biden administration withdrew the subpoena, and Twitter had filed a motion to quash it in which the company mocked Nunes, writing that this was one of many “repeated efforts to unmask individuals behind parody accounts critical of him.”
The Times’ original article on the subpoena, however, didn’t mention McConnell and left the door open for speculation that the subpoena was merely a way for the Trump administration to intimidate those who bothered his allies. The article focused on Twitter’s response to the subpoena.
“As the custodian entrusted with the private identifying information that the government seeks, Twitter is concerned the subpoena may not be supported by a legitimate law enforcement purpose, and that therefore, there cannot be any need — let alone a compelling need — for the government to unmask the user,” an attorney for Twitter wrote in response to the subpoena.
“As such, Twitter asks that the court engage in a searching analysis of the government’s bases for issuing the subpoena in order to determine whether the subpoena violates the First Amendment and should be quashed,” Twitter continued.
As The Federalist reported, the false narrative surrounding this subpoena was peddled by The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Vanity Fair prior to the real story being reported by the Times. More from the Federalist:
While MSNBC reported federal prosecutors who pursued the case failed to show the specific threat to warrant the reveal, the Times wrote, “the offending post had since been deleted or removed,” citing one of the officials consulted.
The paper reported law enforcement officials said the post in question came from a threat to McConnell around the time he drew bitter backlash from Democrats when he pledged to move forward with the confirmation process of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
“The new information suggests that Mr. Nunes, whose office has not responded to a request for comment, may [not] have had any role in the subpoena,” the Times wrote.
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