Political News

DOJ modifies request for info on Trump opponents

Posted August 22

Federal prosecutors have modified their request for a website host to turn over records related to a Trump protest site "in light of factual revelations," according to a new court filing Tuesday.

Specifically, prosecutors say they have "no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHost's numerous press releases."

However, the court filing indicates that the Department of Justice still is seeking access to DreamHost's records to identify evidence of crimes.

The new request remains broad, yet reflects a specific time frame for the search -- July 2016 to January 2017 -- and identifies the types of records the government can "seize." Additionally, the Justice Department says it is interested in reviewing the records of subscribers to the site, not simply individuals who clicked on it.

Last week, DreamHost said in a blog post prosecutors were seeking "all records" related to "disruptj20.org," which organized Trump protests in January -- including 1.3 million IP addresses of visitors to the website. DreamHost, which hosts disruptj20.org, claimed this would be a "clear abuse" of government authority and raised free speech concerns.

In Tuesday's new court filing, prosecutors balk at this assertion: "The government values and respects the First Amendment right of all Americans to participate in peaceful political protests and to read protected political expression online."

"This warrant has nothing to do with that right," the filing continues. "The warrant is focused on evidence of the planning, coordination and participation in a criminal act -- that is, a premeditated riot. The First Amendment does not protect violent, criminal conduct such as this," lawyers for the government write.

The Justice Department argues that DreamHost is not qualified to conduct the search to identify records that contain evidence of crimes. The Justice Department says any information that falls outside the scope of what the government can seize will be sealed and not reviewed without a formal court order.

A court hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday morning. What is deemed within the scope of the government's new search request will figure prominently in the court session.

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