In an appellate court ruling he revealed earlier this year, a federal judge agreed with special prosecutor Jack Smith that former Donald Trump was a flight risk amid multiple investigations.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia released its ruling Wednesday of an appeal that had been decided in July.

The substance of the case was that Twitter, now part of Elon Musk’s X Corp., said its First Amendment right to inform Trump his account was being examined had been violated when Smith sought to examine Trump’s account and Twitter was not allowed to inform Trump of this.

Smith had sought data from Trump’s Twitter account in January. Twitter went to court, but in February the District Court sided with Smith and imposed a $350,000 fine against Twitter for not complying fast enough.

The appellate court sided against Twitter as well and agreed that the social media giant should be fined $350,000 as the District court had ordered.

The ruling added a footnote about the initial thought process of U.S. District Court Beryl Howell, who heard the initial case but stepped down in March, when she agreed that Trump should not be told what Smith was doing.  Howell was appointed by former President Barack Obama, according to the Daily Caller.

“The district court also found reason to believe that the former President would ‘flee from prosecution,’” the ruling said in a footnote.

“The government later acknowledged, however, that it had ‘errantly included flight from prosecution as a predicate’ in its application. … The district court did not rely on risk of flight in its ultimate analysis,” the footnote in the ruling said.

The appellate court ruling did not provide further context. At the time, Trump faced no charges. The Messenger reported that Howell never withdrew her flight risk concerns, even if they were never acted upon.

The ruling did note that “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 appellate court noted that the nondisclosure order stayed in effect for 180 days, which is why a case decided in February is just making the news now.

In examining the secrecy surrounding the probe of Trump’s Twitter account and the allegation of being a flight risk, legal scholar Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School said on his website that “Neither seems warranted in this case even assuming that the subpoena was in other respects warranted.”

“The court found that Trump might change his course of conduct but that seems unlikely. If anything Trump has been most consistent in his social media practices. Indeed, while some of us have criticized him for his posting, he has remained entirely undeterred,” Turley wrote.

As for destroying evidence, Turley noted, “It is not clear how Trump would destroy the evidence in possession of Twitter, particularly after the company is informed that it must preserve and disclose the meta data.”

Turley then turned to the supposed concern from Howell that Trump might flee.

“Process that for a second. Trump has 24/7 security. So Howell agreed that he might shake his sizable security detail, evade them, and go on the lam. He is one of the most recognized figures in the world. He would have to go to Mars to live incognito,” he wrote.

“It is facially absurd. Trump has been sued and criminally charged across the country. He has never made a break for it. Where would he go? Cuba?” Turley wrote.

The flight risk finding “undermines the credibility of the court’s order. This is not to question the ability to force the release of the information. However, the need for secrecy is far from evident,” Turkey wrote.

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