USA v Donald Trump – Cell Phone Forensics

There was breaking news in digital forensics from the USA v. Donald J. Trump criminal case. I will update as more information becomes known, but Special Counsel Jack Smith filed a summary of anticipated expert testimony involving multiple digital forensic experts. Although reliance on digital forensic experts is increasingly common, this high profile example demonstrates how cell phones and electronic storage accounts automatically can create highly relevant data without users necessarily intending, or even being aware of, its creation.

Special Counsel Smith disclosed that three different experts would testify regarding the following topics relating to digital forensics:

1. Using Specialized Software to Map Location Data

The first proposed expert employed specialized geo-mapping software in conjunction with Google location history data. The proposed expert would testify regarding how the mapping software can leverage such data to provide a reliable graphical representation of individual movements toward the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 after President Trump’s speech at President’s Park South.

2. Authenticating and Explaining Location Data

The second proposed digital forensics expert would testify regarding the authenticity of location data collected from Google, and how such data can be used to understand movements of individuals toward the U.S. Capitol after President Trump’s January 6, 2021 speech.

3. Analysis of Cell Phone Data

The third proposed expert would testify regarding cell phone data from President Trump himself, as well as another unidentified individual. In particular, this expert is anticipated to testify regarding the collection and extraction of such cell phone data, analyzing when the Twitter application was open on President Trump’s phone, and discussion of other relevant phone evidence.

Although neither I nor my employer Repario ( worked on this particular dispute, the digital forensics team at Repario routinely collects and analyzes location data from smart phones and other electronic storage devices and accounts in a wide variety of litigation contexts. The potential relevance of where individuals were and when extends well beyond criminal matters, with other examples potentially ranging from complex corporate data misappropriation theft investigations to more routine but no less significant disputes involving traffic accidents and other personal injuries.