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.