Mar-a-Lago’s key witness is said to have been a former White House aide

A key witness in the ongoing Justice Department and FBI investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged misuse of classified documents is a Navy veteran who followed the former president to Florida after serving as a valet at the Trump White House, people familiar with the matter said Persons.

According to these people, the witness in question is Walt Nauta, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The 39-year-old worked as Trump’s valet in the Oval Office suite and served as a personal assistant at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida residence and private club, according to former White House staffers.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday An unnamed Trump aide had presented investigators with crucial evidence, telling them he had moved boxes at the request of the former president when the government requested the return of classified material, including some highly sensitive items, from Mar-a-Lago.

The testimony was corroborated by surveillance camera footage, people familiar with the case said, giving investigators important evidence of Trump’s conduct in investigating potential crimes, including obstruction, destruction of government records, or misuse of classified information.

Witness told FBI he brought Mar-a-Lago boxes on Trump’s orders

Hours after the Post’s report was published, the New York Times reported that surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago Nauta showed moving boxes.

A lawyer for Nauta declined to comment to The Post on Thursday, and Nauta did not return a call asking for comment.

The information Nauta provided to FBI agents and footage described to The Post, provide the most direct account yet of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the 8/14 FBI raid on his Florida home.

The search came after the Justice Department requested the return of all classified documents from Mar-a-Lago. Trump aides turned over 38 documents in June in response to a grand jury subpoena, but FBI agents found 103 more when they returned to Mar-a-Lago in August.

When FBI agents first interviewed Nauta, he denied any role in moving boxes or sensitive documents, those familiar with the situation said in interviews before Nauta’s name became public. But as investigators gathered more evidence, they questioned him a second time, and he told a completely different story — that Trump ordered him to move the boxes, these people said.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich on Wednesday declined to answer specific questions about those claims, instead accusing the Biden administration of “arming law enforcement and concocting a document scam in a desperate attempt to retain political power.”

When asked about Nauta’s account Thursday, Budowich questioned the legality of the court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago and accused the Biden administration of “collaborating with the media in an overt and illegal act of intimidation and manipulation through targeted leaks.” to have”.

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People familiar with the Mar-a-Lago investigation said agents collected evidence suggesting Trump ordered people to bring boxes to his home after his advisers received the subpoena. That description of events was corroborated by security camera footage, which showed people moving the boxes, people said.

Separately, last week FBI agents questioned another key figure in the documents case: Christina Bobb, a lawyer who signed a June letter that said a “diligent search” for classified records had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago and returned to the government that all these documents were in place.

Bobb, whose interview with the FBI was first reported by NBC News, told agents she signed the letter at the request of other attorneys and does not know the details of the search, a person familiar with the matter said. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal private conversations, said Bobb told the FBI she was skeptical about signing the letter and insisted on adding a disclaimer, saying it was based on information provided to her by others.

Bobb has told fellow Trumpers that she did nothing wrong and acted based on what she was told by Trump adviser Evan Corcoran, who conducted the search for documents in response to the subpoena.

A person familiar with Bobb’s report said the day before the June 3 meeting with the Justice Department, she was called by Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn and asked to attend the meeting with Corcoran, whom she had never met. The person, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to share Bobb’s account, said Bobb told agents Corcoran the storeroom had been thoroughly searched – noting that it was the only area of ​​the club that would be searched must.

Corcoran’s search for classified documents in response to the subpoena did not include the president’s private residence, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

One person with knowledge of the boxes’ movement at Mar-a-Lago said that after they were brought to the residence, Trump inspected at least some of them and removed some of the documents. At least some of the boxes were later returned to the storage room, this person said, while some of the documents remained in the apartment. The Post could not confirm the specific contents of the boxes allegedly examined by Trump.

Among the documents seized: material on a foreign country’s nuclear capabilities

According to public records, Nauta is originally from Guam. He enlisted in the Navy and eventually became a chef in the White House Mess, a small dining room operated by the Navy in the basement of the West Wing. In 2013, he entered a military culinary competition as part of a team representing the Presidential Food Service.

Shortly after Trump took office, Nauta left the mess hall to become one of Trump’s servants, spending part of his workday in a small passageway connecting the West Wing with a private dining room. From there he had access to a small refrigerator stocked with Diet Cokes, which he was bringing to the President in the Oval Office when Trump pressed a call button on his desk, said a former White House aide who spoke to the order on condition of anonymity discuss White House activities.

Nauta often served as a kind of errand boy, fetching whatever the President needed and tidying up the room throughout the day, said the former employee. When Trump left the Oval Office for the night, it was Nauta who brought his coat. Their daily closeness led to the two developing a close professional relationship and Trump “trusted him completely,” the person added.

As part of his duties as a valet, Nauta also transported boxes of papers for Trump between the Oval Office and a private study and dining room that Trump used as an informal office, the former employee said. According to several former White House officials who said Trump never strictly followed rules and customs for handling sensitive government materials, Trump routinely brought classified documents to this dining room, interspersed with newspaper articles and other papers.

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The boxes, which Nauta is said to have moved in Mar-a-Lago on Trump’s orders, also contained classified documents mixed with newspaper articles, according to people familiar with the case.

The former employee described Nauta as friendly and pleasant towards visitors to the Oval Office. In September 2020, Nauta was promoted to Senior Chief Petty Officer, a significant career advancement. When Trump left the White House, Nauta decided to join him at Mar-a-Lago.

Campaign finance records show that Nauta was placed on the payroll of a Trump political action committee, Save America, in 2021. He was only on the payroll in August, earning $5,227.81 in paychecks, or about $135,000 a year, according to Federal Election Commission files.

Lori Rozsa in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Alice Crites and Rosalind S. Helderman in Washington contributed to this report.

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