Key witness Mar-a-Lago is a former White House staffer

A Navy SEAL who is a key witness in the Justice Department and FBI probe into Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents followed the former president to Florida after working as a Trump White House staffer, people familiar with the matter said.

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

The Washington Post He said on Wednesday An unnamed Trump staffer He had provided investigators with crucial evidence — telling them he had moved the boxes at the request of the former president at a time when the government was trying to retrieve classified material, including some highly sensitive material, from Mar-a-Lago.

Witnesses’ accounts were corroborated by security-camera footage, which people familiar with the case said provided investigators with key evidence of Trump’s behavior. Prohibition, destruction of government records or mishandling of classified information.

The witness told the FBI that Mar-a-Lago moved the 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 showed Nauta moving boxes.

Nauta’s attorney declined to comment to The Post on Thursday, and Nauta did not return a call seeking comment.

Nauta provided information to FBI agents and described the footage to The Post, The most direct account of Trump’s actions and advice led the FBI to search his Florida properties on August 8.

The search came after the Justice Department requested the return of all classified documents from Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s aides responded to a grand jury subpoena with 38 documents in June, but FBI agents tracked down 103 more When they returned to Mar-a-Lago in August.

When FBI agents first interviewed Nauta, he denied any role in moving the boxes or key documents, people 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 instructed him to move the boxes, these people said.

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Trump spokesman Taylor Pudovich declined to answer specific questions about those assertions on Wednesday, instead accusing the Biden administration of “weaponizing law enforcement and creating a document hoax in a desperate bid to retain political power.”

When asked about Nauta’s account on Thursday, Pudovich questioned the legality of the court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago and accused the Biden administration of “collusting with the media through targeted leaks through overt and illegal intimidation and sabotage.”

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People familiar with the Mar-a-Lago investigation said agents gathered evidence that Trump told people to move the boxes to his home after his advisers received a subpoena. That description of events was corroborated by security-camera footage showing people moving boxes, the people said.

Separately, FBI agents last week interviewed another key figure in the documents case: Christina Popp, an attorney who signed a June letter saying Mar-a-Lago had conducted an “affirmative search” for classified records, all of which contained such documents. It was again handed over to the government.

Bob, whose interview with the FBI was first reported by NBC News, told agents he signed the letter at the request of other prosecutors and did not know the details of the search, a person familiar with the matter said. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations, said Bob told the FBI he had doubts about signing the letter and insisted on including a disclaimer based on information others had given him.

Bob has told other Trump advisers that he did nothing wrong and that he acted on what Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran, who handled the search for documents in response to the subpoena, told him.

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A person familiar with Pope’s account said he was called by Trump adviser Boris Epstein a day before the June 3 meeting with the Justice Department and asked to sit in on a session with Corcoran, whom he had never met. The person, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to relay Bob’s account, said agents Corcoran told him that the storage room had been thoroughly searched — and indicated that it was the only part of the club to be searched.

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

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

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Nautha is from Guam, according to public records. He joined the Navy and eventually became a cook at the White House Mess, a small dining facility run by the Navy in the basement of the West Wing. In 2013, he entered a military cooking competition as part of a team representing the “Presidential Food Service”.

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Nauta left the chaos to become one of Trump’s valets, spending some of his work days in a small passageway connecting the West Wing to a private dining room. From there, he accessed a small refrigerator stocked with Diet Cokes, which he brought to the president in the Oval Office when Trump pressed the call button on his desk, said a former White House staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity. Activities inside the White House.

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Nauta often served as a kind of gofer, picking up items the president needed throughout the day and tidying up the room, The former employee said. When Trump left the Oval Office that night, it was Nauta who brought his coat. In their daily intimacy, the two developed a close professional relationship, and Trump “trusted him completely,” the person added.

As part of his valet duties, he moved boxes of papers for Trump between the Oval Office and a private study, as well as a private dining room that Trump used as an informal office, the former staffer said. According to several former White House officials Trump has spoken with, Trump routinely took classified documents mixed with newspaper articles and other papers to the dining room. Never strictly followed rules and customs for handling important government material.

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The boxes Nauda allegedly moved at Trump’s direction at Mar-a-Lago also contained classified documents mixed with newspaper articles, according to people familiar with the case.

The former staffer described Nautha as friendly and pleasant to 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.

In 2021, campaign finance records show Nauta was on the payroll of Save America, a Trump political action group. He made an August payroll of $5,227.81, or $135,000 a year, according to a Federal Election Commission filing. .

Lori Rossa of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Alice Crites and Rosalind S. of Washington. Helderman contributed to this report.

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