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Walt Nauta, the loyal Trump aide facing dozens of years in prison in classified documents case

In the investigation into confidential papers kept at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s ‘body man’ is charged with six counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and withholding a record

Trump indictment
Walt Nauta, personal aide to former U.S. president Trump, walks with Trump at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.JONATHAN ERNST (REUTERS)
Iker Seisdedos

During the Donald Trump administration, daily operations at the White House were marked by one oddity after the other. Trump even had a “Diet Coke button.” It was only good for one thing: Trump pressed it, and a valet immediately brought him a soda.

For a time, that valet was Walt Nauta, Trump’s personal aide, who alongside the former president has been indicted in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. Last week, it was revealed that he had been charged with six counts: conspiracy to obstruct justice; withholding a document or record; concealing a document or record; concealing a document in a federal investigation; scheming to conceal, and making false statements and representations to authorities. Several of the charges carry maximum sentences of 20 years behind bars.

For staffers working for the U.S. presidency, there is an unwritten rule that, once an administration ends, they will move on to a new job (consultancy, a book contract) that will mark the next stage of their lives. Nauta is an exception to that rule: he decided to continue as Trump’s shadow.

Nauta’s name is cited 64 times in the 49-page indictment, which details the 37 charges for which Trump will be tried. Both Trump and Nauta are summoned to appear on Tuesday in a federal court in Miami. The indictment offers a brief biography of the 40-year-old, who was born on the island of Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific. “Defendant Nauta was a member of the United States Navy stationed as a valet in the White House during Trump’s presidency. Beginning in August 2021, Nauta became an executive assistant in the Office of Donald J. Trump and served as Trump’s personal aide or ‘body man.’ Nauta reported to Trump, worked closely with Trump, and traveled with Trump,” it reads. (Trump’s name is cited 311 times in the indictment.)

Photo taken by Walt Nauta of one of the rooms where classified papers were kept at Mar-a-Lago.
Photo taken by Walt Nauta of one of the rooms where classified papers were kept at Mar-a-Lago.HANDOUT (AFP)

In the indictment, the aide — whose full name is Waltine Nauta — appears for the first time in January 2021, when he became “personally involved” in moving boxes containing classified documents that Trump wanted to transport from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.

Two months later, Nauta moved some boxes from one of Mar-a-Lago’s two ballrooms to the complex’s business center. His name comes up again in December of that year, when he took a photo of files spilling out over the floor. This photo — which Nauta sent to another Trump employee — was included in the indictment. At least one of the papers seen on the floor, concerning the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, contains classified information. According to the indictment, a couple of months later, Nauta helped move the boxes again. Traces of these movements were documented in text messages and in the security camera footage reviewed by investigators.

In May 2022, when the grand jury issued an order for the immediate return of classified documents, Nauta was questioned by the FBI. According to the indictment, that was when he made false and misleading statements. Nauta was asked whether Trump had reviewed the contents of the boxes after the former president finally agreed to return some of them to the National Archives, which store all presidential papers once a term is over. He replied that he was not aware. When asked if Trump had the documents in a locked location, he answered: “I wish I could tell you. I honestly just don’t know,” when the answer should have been no.

Despite knowing for a little over a year that he was in the crosshairs of the investigation into the classified documents, Nauta continued to obey Trump’s orders and move boxes from one place to another until June 2022. In the fall, after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, he was invited to collaborate with investigators. He refused to do so in another demonstration of his extraordinary loyalty to Trump, a virtue that the former president values above all others.

Even after learning of his indictment, Nauta has not wavered in his commitment. Just as he has been doing since Trump announced his 2024 White House run, he accompanied Trump on Saturday on his trip to Georgia and North Carolina, where the former president spoke at the Republican state conventions. According to AP reports, the two were seen at a waffle house in Georgia, where Trump signed autographs, posed for photos and told supporters: “We did absolutely nothing wrong.”

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