The former president was a voracious user of his @realDonaldTrump as he tried to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, but was suspended by the platform, formerly known as Twitter, in the wake of the January 6 attack “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Last November, following Mr Musk’s $44bn purchase of the social media app, the billionaire said that banning Mr Trump had been a mistake. The former president, who has a financial stake in Truth Social, said that he would never return to Twitter, but in August posted there for the first time in two years.
But that has not stopped federal prosecutors from getting access to a string of Mr Trump’s private messages from the high-profile account, according to court filings.
Details of the messages, which were obtained with a search warrant, were included in a brief that was filed under seal in May to the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington DC, reported CNN.
Twitter had appealed a judge’s sanctioning of Elon Musk’s company for its delay in handing over the messages to prosecutors.
The company did not want to hand over the messages because of a court order that prevented it from telling the former president about the warrant, and there were concerns that Mr Trump might try and use executive privilege to block it.
The brief was unsealed on Friday, along with another court filing that stated the warrant covered a period from October 2020 to January 2021.
“Indeed, the materials Twitter produced to the Government included only 32 direct-message items, constituting a minuscule proportion of the total production,” prosecutors wrote in the brief.
“As such, Twitter sought to delay compliance with the entirety of the Warrant based on the speculative possibility that a tiny fraction of the total production could, implausibly, contain instances when the President sought to use the direct-messaging function to carry out sensitive and confidential deliberations with trusted advisors within the Executive Branch.”
Mr Trump, who is the first and only former or sitting president to be criminally charged, faces a total of 91 felony counts across his four criminal indictments by state and federal prosecutors.
Special Counsel Jack Smith has charged him with four criminal counts over his efforts to stay in power after the 2020 election. These include a conspiracy to violate civil rights, a conspiracy to defraud the government, the corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding and a conspiracy to carry out such obstruction.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan has set a 4 March trial date, the day before the Super Tuesday primaries.
Mr Trump also faces 40 federal felony charges with Mr Smith accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving the White House. That case is expected to go to trial in May 2024.
In Fulton County, Georgia, Mr Trump and 18 associates have been charged with trying to subvert the 2020 election results in the state in a sprawling Rico case. Mr Trump faces 13 felony charges.
Three defendants, Kenneth Chesebro, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell, have entered guilty pleas in return for helping prosecutors. No trial date has yet been set for the remaining 16 defendants.
Mr Trump has also been accused in New York City of falsifying business records in connection with a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 election. Mr Trump was indicted in March and is expected to go to trial on 25 March 2024.
He has pleaded not guilty to every charge in each case and has accused prosecutors of “election interference” and an attempt to derail his 2024 run for a second term in the Oval Office.