Trump ally Devin Nunes has had a frustrating time in his attempts to find out who's behind various parody accounts that have long been insulting and poking fun of him. Now, a newly unsealed court document reveals that last November after the election, Twitter received a secret grand-jury subpoena from the Justice Department under then-President Trump demanding information on one of those accounts, @NunesAlt (aka "Devin Nunes' Alt Mom"), including the subscriber's name, address, email addresses, and an accounting of the user's Twitter sessions, reports the New York Times. Twitter pushed back on that subpoena, as well as a gag order requiring it to keep the subpoena under wraps. Per CNN, Twitter account holders usually get a heads-up on legal proceedings against them, but the gag order in this case was issued because prosecutors feared its investigation would be hurt otherwise. The DOJ under President Biden withdrew the subpoena this spring, a source tells the Times.
In the March 10 filing by Twitter to "quash" the subpoena and nix the gag order, the company defends the @NunesAlt account, noting it "appears to be engaged in clear First Amendment activity," and that the account was "devoted entirely to political parody," per the Washington Post. Twitter tried to find out from the government why the account's user was being targeted and was told the user was part of a criminal probe into whether they broached a federal statute that makes it a crime to use "interstate communications to threaten to injure someone," though the government couldn't pinpoint any tweets that explicitly did so, per the filing, which adds: "Recent litigation ... alleges that Congressman Nunes may be using the government to unmask his critics." @NunesAlt responded Tuesday to the news of the subpoena, tweeting: "It's not about me or this silly account. It's about silencing all of us." No comment yet from Nunes' camp or the DOJ. (Read more Devin Nunes stories.)