Trump valet Walt Nauta pleads not guilty in classified documents case
Jul 5, 2023, 9:07 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2023, 9:34 am
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
MIAMI (AP) — Donald Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he helped the former president hide classified documents from federal authorities, appearing with a new Florida-based lawyer to represent him as the case moves forward.
Nauta was charged alongside Trump in June in a 38-count indictment alleging the mishandling of classified documents. His arraignment was to have happened twice before, but he had struggled to retain a lawyer licensed in Florida and one appearance was postponed because of his travel troubles.
Ahead of his arraignment, Nauta hired Sasha Dadan, a criminal defense attorney and former public defender whose main law office is in Fort Pierce, where the judge who would be handling the trial is based. She appeared in court with Nauta, alongside his Washington lawyer, Stanley Woodward, who entered the not guilty plea on his behalf.
Nauta answered, “Yes, Your Honor,” when he was asked whether he had reviewed the indictment during the brief court appearance. He and his lawyers exited the courthouse after the arraignment and entered a Black Mercedes-Benz sedan without answering questions from reporters.
Trump pleaded not guilty during his June 13 arraignment to charges including willful retention of national defense information. But Nauta’s arraignment was postponed that day because of the lawyer situation and then was pushed back again last week when a flight from New Jersey he was to have taken was canceled.
The indictment filed by special counsel Jack Smith and his team of prosecutors accuses Nauta of conspiring with Trump to conceal records that the former president had taken with him from the White House after his term ended in January 2021.
Prosecutors allege that Nauta, at the former president’s direction, moved boxes of documents bearing classification markings so they would not be found by a Trump lawyer who was tasked with searching the home for classified records to be returned to the government.
That, prosecutors said, resulted in a false claim to the Justice Department that a “diligent search” for classified documents had been done and that all documents responsive to a subpoena had been returned.
The relocation of the boxes was captured on surveillance camera footage that the Justice Department had subpoenaed, and agents and prosecutors cited those actions as a basis for probable cause that a crime had been committed in their August warrant application to search Mar-a-Lago, according to newly unsealed information from the application.
Prosecutors say Nauta also misled the FBI during an interview with agents last year when he said he was unaware of boxes of documents having been brought to Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago.
Nauta is a Navy veteran who fetched Trump’s Diet Cokes as his valet at the White House before joining him as a personal aide at Mar-a-Lago. He is regularly by Trump’s side, including traveling in Trump’s motorcade to the Miami courthouse for their appearance earlier this month and accompanying him afterward to a stop at the city’s famed Cuban restaurant Versailles, where he helped usher supporters eager to take selfies with the former president.
Tucker reported from Washington.