The federal prosecutors who charged former President Donald J. Trump this month with conspiring to overturn the 2020 election got access this winter to a trove of so-called direct messages that Mr. Trump sent others privately through his long defunct Twitter account, according to court papers unsealed on Tuesday.
While it remained unclear what sorts of information the messages contained and who exactly may have written them, it was a revelation that there were private messages associated with the Twitter account of Mr. Trump, who has famously been cautious about using written forms of communications in his dealings with aides and allies.
The court papers revealing that prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, obtained direct messages from Mr. Trump’s Twitter account emerged from a fight with Twitter over the legality of executing a warrant on the former president’s social media.
The papers included a 206-page transcript of a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington in February during which Judge Beryl A. Howell asserted that Mr. Smith’s office had sought Mr. Trump’s direct messages — or DMs — from Twitter as part of a search warrant it executed on the account in January.
In the transcript, a lawyer for Twitter, answering questions from Judge Howell, confirmed that the company had turned over to the special counsel’s office “all direct messages, the DMs” from Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, including those “sent from, received by” and “stored in draft form.”
The lawyer for Twitter told Judge Howell that the company had found both “deleted” and “nondeleted” direct messages associated with Mr. Trump’s account.
The warrant was first revealed last week when a federal appeals court in Washington released court papers about Twitter’s attempt to challenge certain aspects of the warrant.
The court papers unsealed on Tuesday revealed that Mr. Smith’s prosecutors sought “all content, records and other information” related to Mr. Trump’s Twitter account from October 2020 to January 2021, including all tweets “created, drafted, favorited/liked or retweeted” by the account and all direct messages sent from, received by or stored in draft form by the account.
The warrant, which was signed by a federal judge in Washington in January after Elon Musk took over Twitter, now called X, is the first known example of prosecutors directly searching Mr. Trump’s communications and adds a new dimension to the scope of the special counsel’s efforts to investigate the former president.
CNN earlier reported the revelation that Mr. Trump’s direct messages were sought by the search warrant.