Trump aide Walt Nauta also charged in classified documents case

WASHINGTON — Walt Nauta, an aide to Donald Trump, has been indicted on federal criminal charges related to the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents.

Nauta was charged with six counts, including conspiracy to obstruct, withholding a document or record, and plan to conceal, according to the federal indictment that was unsealed Friday afternoon. .

Nauta, Trump’s butler and body man – whose legal fees are being paid by a Trump political organization – had come under scrutiny by investigators over his shifting accounts of whether he had moved boxes of documents in the Mar-a-Lago estate of the former president in Florida at his insistence.

A lawyer for Nauta declined to comment to NBC News on Trump’s message.

The charges against Nauta, a Navy veteran, were the latest in a cascading wave of developments since historic news Thursday night that a federal grand jury had indicted the former president on seven criminal charges related to his manipulation of classified documents discovered last year at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The grand jury’s indictment decision is the culmination of a months-long Justice Department investigation led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Smith is scheduled to speak at 3 p.m. ET in Washington.

The charges make the twice deposed former commander-in-chief the first former president to face federal criminal charges.

Who is Walt Nauta?

This historic federal indictment pairs Trump, one of the most famous and sometimes powerful men in the world, with Nauta, his 40-year-old aide who served his country and a president without much public attention until that the alleged plot is revealed.

Waltine Torres Nauta, Jr. enlisted in the United States Navy and served for 20 years. Born and raised in Guam, Nauta rose to the rank of “Chief Culinary Specialist” in the Navy and worked in the White House as part of the Presidential Food Service, which is a section of the White House Military Office.

These sailors run the Navy Mess and provide catering needs on the White House campus, at Camp David, and during President’s travels. During Trump’s presidency, Nauta was chosen to be one of two military valets who had close and direct daily contact with Trump for his personal needs such as meals in the Oval Office and organizing his clothes for travel. , a former senior Trump aide told NBC News. (The White House Executive Residence also employs butlers who provide similar services and tasks, but are non-military.)

When Trump left the White House, Nauta was part of the post-presidency transition, serving another six months while still in the Navy. Trump indicated in a social media post that at some point Nauta “retired” from military service and “later moved into private life as a personal assistant.”

Federal Election Commission records show that beginning in August 2021, Nauta was paid by Trump’s “Save America PAC,” compensation that included salary, travel reimbursement and bonus. He then appeared on Trump’s 2024 campaign payroll. He remained on the payroll in 2023. It is unclear if he received any funds from the 45 Office, Trump’s official post-presidency office.

Nauta was seen traveling with the former president on numerous public trips, campaign stops and at Mar-a-Lago events.

According to the indictment, Nauta was among those, including Trump himself, who “wrapped items” from the White House for shipment to Florida.

It also details how the former president told “Walt” about his preferred location for boxes of papers. Nauta, according to the indictment, discovered that some boxes containing classified materials had fallen and the contents spilled into the storage room.

The indictment also alleges that Nauta and another aide moved boxes from storage to the Trump residence for him to examine.

According to text messages cited in the indictment, Nauta said he was aware the former president was going through the documents at his residence, writing to the point that Trump “knocked out two boxes yesterday.” Prosecutors allege Nauta made false statements denying knowledge of the boxes and moved dozens of boxes at the former president’s direction after it was clear the National Archives was seeking the return of government records.

The FBI interview Nauta gave, the indictment states, was voluntary and he was represented by an attorney. The indictment also alleges that Trump directed many of Nauta’s actions.

Trump’s legal team shakes up

Trump said late Thursday that his lawyers had been told he had been charged as part of the special counsel’s investigation into his handling of classified documents. A source familiar with the matter said Trump received a subpoena in US District Court on Tuesday.

Hours after the news broke, Trump on Friday morning shook up his legal team, firing a pair of attorneys who had thus far represented the ex-commander-in-chief throughout the investigation.

In posts on his Truth Social platform, Trump continued to speak out against the charges and announced that attorneys Jim Trusty and John Rowley no longer represent him. Trusty appeared on NBC News Friday morning to defend Trump. The two lawyers said they submitted their resignations in a statement.

“For the purposes of combating the greatest witch hunt of all time, now moving to the courts of Florida, I will be represented by Todd Blanche, Esq., and a firm to be named later,” Trump wrote. “I want to thank Jim Trusty and John Rowley for their work, but they came up against a very dishonest, corrupt, evil and sick group of people.”

Former President Donald Trump talks to reporters on his plane after a campaign rally in Waco, Texas on March 25, 2023. (Evan Vucci/AP File)

Former President Donald Trump talks to reporters on his plane after a campaign rally in Waco, Texas on March 25, 2023. (Evan Vucci/AP File)

Trump added that he would “announce additional attorneys in the coming days.”

The announcement came just after it was learned that the case against him would be overseen – initially – by a federal judge he appointed who had been criticized by a higher court for ruling in his favor. on a series of questions earlier in the survey.

Trump’s case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on Friday, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Last year, Cannon, during the early stages of the federal investigation into the ex-president’s handling of classified documents, granted his request to have a special master review all evidence seized in his area of Mar-a-Lago.

His September 2022 decision to appoint the special master temporarily stalled parts of the Justice Department’s investigation into the trove of top-secret and classified documents recovered by federal agents from the former president’s residence in southern Florida.

The decision by Cannon, whom Trump nominated to the bench in 2020, drew immediate criticism from legal experts and, three months later, was overturned by a federal appeals court, which ruled that the Cannon’s decision was incorrect and lifted restrictions on the investigation, allowing investigators to proceed more quickly.

The charges, the second time Trump has been charged since leaving office, focus on how he handled some of the country’s most sensitive secrets while leaving the White House.

Two sources briefed on the seven counts said the indictment includes false statements and conspiracy to obstruct. All charges relate to withholding of documents and obstruction of justice. The number of accounts remains unknown.

After Trump left, the federal government made several attempts to obtain files he had kept since his time in the White House, giving him and his legal team multiple opportunities to turn them over. The government eventually seized more than 11,000 pages of government documents from Mar-a-Lago, including more than 100 classified documents, after Trump’s team attested that they conducted a thorough search of the classified documents on site.

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