The sad case of Waltine Nauta

I think it is safe to say that before yesterday, very few people apart from his immediate circle had heard the name Waltine Nauta. Then he was named alongside serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) in the 38-count federal criminal indictment that special prosecutor Jack Smith unsealed yesterday and now faces a raft of serious charges for essentially being an accomplice in SSAT’s mishandling of classified documents.

The 40-year old Nauta is described as a personal aide or valet to SSAT, a sort of Jeeves to SSAT’s Bertie Wooster. This brief biography says that he is from Guam and served in the navy and worked as a cook at the White House before he became an aide to SSAT when he was president and then stayed with hm when SSAT returned to private life.

To be clear, Nauta was not charged with all the counts that SSAT was. The first 31 counts dealing with “Willful Retention of National Defense Information” were for SSAT alone. Count 37 for “False Statement and Representations” is also against SSAT only

Counts 32 through 36 are against both of them and count 38, also for “False Statement and Representations”, is against Nauta only

All of the counts carry a maximum penalty fine of $250,000 for each of them. As for the possible maximum prison penalties for SSAT, counts 1 through 31 carry 10 years, counts 32 through 35 carry 20 years, and counts 36 and 37 carry 5 years. As for the possible maximum prison penalties for Nauta, counts 32 through 35 carry 20 years and counts 36 and 38 carry 5 years.

In reading through the indictment, it is clear that Nauta is being accused of aiding SSAT in moving the boxes of classified documents around, helping to hide them from investigators and even one of SSAT”s layers, and lying to the FBI about it.

Nauta looks like just the kind of person SSAT likes to have around him, someone who will do his bidding no questions asked.

Senior Trump aides have described him in the media as a “very sheepish” person who “asks permission for everything,” but was was “willing to do whatever” for Trump.

Nauta served as a valet while Trump was in office. A valet is a member of the military who works as a close personal assistant or butler. Nauta was the only White House valet that left Washington D.C. for Trump’s personal residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida after he lost the 2020 election.

In September 2021, he left the military to work as a personal aide to Trump at Mar-a-Lago. He was put on the payroll of Save America, a Trump political action committee, last year making $135,000 a year, according to the Washington Post

Surveillance footage allegedly showed him moving boxes out of a storage room at Mar-a-Lago before and after the DOJ issued a subpoena in May 2022 demanding all classified documents be returned.

A source told the Washington Post that Nauta initially denied moving the boxes of documents during an interview with the FBI but later said Trump told him to move the boxes during a second interview.

Earlier on Friday, Trump offered a defense of Nauta, whose legal bills are being paid by a Trump political organization, according to NBC News.

In March, Trump advisors told the Washington Postthat Nauta was “willing to do whatever” and that he fulfilled “a need for someone who wasn’t too proud to get a new tie, pick up dry cleaning, follow [Trump] around the golf course, staff his dinners, do things that a lot of people just aren’t dying to spend their whole life doing.”

There is something incongruous in a single indictment charging both a former president of the US and one of the lowliest employees. It appears that prosecutors tried to get Nauta to give evidence against SSAT but he chose instead to seemingly lie on SSAT’s behalf and now faces stiff prison sentences for his loyalty. His job was a well-paying one and he may have been reluctant to give it up since he must have known that he would have been fired if he had given evidence that harmed SSAT. Nauta may have initially thought that being such a minor functionary, he would not be a target himself but prosecutors often threaten minor figures with massive penalties in order to get them to cut a deal and turn in those higher up. Lying to the FBI is often the charge that prosecutors use because it is easy to establish.

So we will have to see whether Nauta’s lawyers now think that he may be better off turning against his boss and cutting a deal to get a lower sentence. 20 years in prison can be a daunting prospect just for aiding and abetting in a minor way someone else’s criminal acts. After all, there is no doubt that SSAT would throw Nauta to the wolves if he thought it would help his own chances. With SSAT, loyalty only goes one way. But if Nauta turns state’s evidence, SSAT’s organizations will stop paying his legal bills.

Nauta is in a bind and one cannot help but feel a bit of sympathy for him, a cog in a malfunctioning machine.


  1. Holms says

    I have no sympathy for him. you say “one of the lowliest employees” but a senior chief petty officer with about 20 years of service has a respectable salary of about $70k. He’s not in financial straits at that pay, and certainly so once he entered Trump’s private employ for $135k plus an assured military pension. The man enjoyed the pay bump and so decided to break the law in return.

  2. moonslicer says

    Everything Trump touches dies. A lot of people have learned this lesson the hard way.

    What about Judge Loose Cannon? What did she learn from her last encounter with Trump?

  3. seachange says

    I do not believe the machine is malfunctioning. I think we have plenty of evidence from past behavior it is working as-intended.

    @ #2 moonslicer
    She didn’t get impeached or lose her salary, so she learned she can continue to get away with this?

  4. Bruce says

    Cynically, if SSAT evades all these charges, that suggests that Natua is making the “right” decision.
    If SSAT and Narua get convicted, then people will say Natua should have gotten lawyers who were not conflicted with their priority being SSAT and not with Natua.
    Should a senior CPO be expected to be too naive to see that Trump’s lawyers might sacrifice him? I don’t think one can rise to CPO by being a Pollyanna. Plus it seems likely that federal prosecutors pointed out to Natua various legal risks he faced, to which Natua apparently swore omertà to protect the orange SSAT-father. So Natua is making his bed knowingly and defiantly.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    … and even one of SSAT[‘]s layers…

    ? Trump is too shallow to have personal strata — and I doubt the Palm Beach County code allows poultry at Mar-a-Lago. 😉

  6. another stewart says

    Beau (of the Fifth Column) tells us (often) that maximum sentences in federal offenses are rarely applied; there is a schedule of tariffs depending on exactly what was done. Beau doesn’t expect Trump to get 20 years (I’d add unless it turns out that it can be proved that he was selling documents to foreign agents), so it would seem unlikely that Natua would get a hefty sentence. Though I would hope that he is at least fined enough that it wipes out and more the extra income he got for working for Trump, as otherwise that sends the wrong message.

    Valet is not a specifically military term -- the military term is batman or more broadly orderly, and in slang dog robber. For example Sergeant Bunter was Major Peter Whimsey’s batman during WWI, and Lord Peter Whimsey’s valet after the war.

    Is paying a PAC paying the salary for Trump’s valet/aide legal -- that looks like a misappropriation of funds to me.

  7. Tethys says

    He is not some innocent lackey who was unaware that that he was committing crimes by hiding the boxes from the FBI. I would not be surprised if the prosecution has video of him engaged in repeatedly moving the boxes.

    He deserves the charges, as does his boss.

    I’m wondering how much of the testimony about who else saw his stolen documents will be made public information? Does anyone think that the Kushners were simply gifted 2B out of kindness?

  8. TGAP Dad says

    Agreeing with Helms here -- Natua was a chief petty officer, the navy equivalent of master sergeant, not a fresh-faced recruit. So with all that military background, he saw SSAT in all his glory -- the racism, xenophobia, homophobia, confessed serial sexual assailant, along with his long history of not paying contractors, and business failures, and thought: “that’s my guy!” And after that, witnessing his incompetence, decided to double down. I have no sympathy for Natua. It’s also clear to everyone who lives outside of SSAT-ville, that he will throw under the bus anyone he has to if he thinks it has potential to help him, and reneges on any promises he made, like paying legal fees.

  9. lanir says

    I had the same thought about sentencing that another stewart did. The listed sentences are effectively gibberish that means nothing and any halfway decent journalist knows this. Because they all seem to like printing max sentences regardless of how impossible those sentences might be in a particular case it’s best to simply ignore them when they do this.

    As far as Nauta’s lawyers, I think they have an ethical obligation to work in his best interests. I’m sure there are ways for them to avoid accountability in this case while still giving advice that is in Trump’s interest rather than Nauta’s. But if they’re too overt about doing so, as I understand it there can be consequences for the laywers. For example if the prosecution offers a very favorable plea deal, they can get away with advising Nauta to refuse it even if it’s in his best interests. Even if it sounds ridiculous, they can always claim they thought they’d do better in an actual trial. But if they don’t tell him about the plea deal and effectively deny him a choice while refusing for him? That risks consequences.

  10. says

    To anyone curious about this, if you haven’t read the indictment, I strongly suggest that you do as it will make plain exactly what’s going on. In spite of the 49 page length, it’s a quick read due to lots of white space. You can find it on any number of reputable sites.

  11. flex says

    I would hazard that it’s to remind all underlings that the excuse of “just following orders” is not an acceptable excuse for breaking the law.

    What I find interesting was what was left out of the indictment. There were certainly other rumors, and probably some testimony, of other possible offenses. Further, if there are separate charges for a little more than 30 documents, and we know there were over 100 (close to 200 IIRC, but I’m not going to bother to look it up because it doesn’t matter), that’s a pretty good evidence that the only charges in the indictment were those charges which were iron-clad.

    Nauta may get some jail time, probably not all that much. But he, and his charges, will be used in the future by investigators and prosecutors to remind underlings that “just following orders” is not an excuse.

  12. brightmoon says

    I see Dolt45 has done the usual shtick. Gotten someone loyal to him in trouble because of that misguided loyalty

  13. brightmoon says

    MAGA- My Attorney Got Arrested and My Attendant Got Arrested both changed to My Accomplice Got Arrested

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