Mar-a-Lago’s key witness is said to be a former White House employee

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

Walter Nauta is a questionable witness discussing the ongoing investigation, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The 39-year-old worked as Trump’s valet in his Oval Office suite and as a personal assistant at Trump’s Florida residence and private club, Mar-a-Lago, according to the former White House staffer.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, The unnamed Trump employee provided investigators with key evidence — telling them that he moved boxes at the former president’s request as the government sought to return classified material, including some highly sensitive items, from Mar-a-Lago.

Witnesses’ statements, corroborated by security camera footage, provide investigators with key evidence of Trump’s conduct as they probe potential crimes, including Obstruction, destruction of government records or mishandling of classified information.

Witnesses tell FBI that Mar-a-Lago was moved on Trump’s order

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

A lawyer for Nauta declined to comment to The Washington Post on Thursday, and Nauta did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Information provided by Nauta to FBI agents, and footage described to The Post, Provided so far Trump has searched his Florida property on 8 of 8.

The search came after the Justice Department demanded the return of all classified documents from Mar-a-Lago. Trump aides filed 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 Nauta was first interviewed by FBI agents, he denied any role in moving boxes or sensitive documents, people familiar with the matter said in interviews before Nauta’s name was released. But as investigators gathered more evidence, they questioned him a second time, and he told a very different story — Trump instructed him to move the box, the people said.

Trump spokesman Tyler Budovich on Wednesday declined to answer specific questions about the assertions, instead accusing the Biden administration of “weaponizing law enforcement and fabricating a document hoax in a desperate attempt to retain political power.”

When asked about Nota’s claims on Thursday, Budovic questioned the legality of the court-sanctioned search of Mar-a-Lago and accused the Biden administration of “complicity with the media through targeted leaks, public and unlawful intimidation and Tampering behavior”.

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

Separately, FBI agents last week interviewed another key figure in the file case: Christina Bob, a lawyer who signed a letter in June saying she had filed a lawsuit against Mar-a-Lago. A “careful search” of the estate’s classified records has been carried out and all such documents have been returned to the government.

Bob’s interview with the FBI, which was first reported by NBC News, told the agent that she signed the letter at the request of other attorneys and was unaware of the details of the search, a person familiar with the matter said.The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity and revealed private conversations, said Bobb told the FBI she was skeptical of signing the letter and insisted on adding a disclaimer, saying it was based on information others had given her.

Bobb told other Trump advisers that she did nothing wrong and acted on what Trump attorney Evan Corcoran told her, who handled the document search for the subpoena.

A person familiar with Bob’s account said that the day before the June 3 meeting with the Justice Department, Trump adviser Boris Eppshteyn called her and asked her to speak to Mr. Collen attends the meeting together. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bobb told his agent Corcoran that the storage room had been thoroughly searched – and said it was the only area of ​​the club that needed to be searched.

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

After they were taken to the residence, Trump inspected at least some of them and took some documents, a person familiar with the movements of the Mar-a-Lago boxes said. At least some of the boxes were later returned to storage, while some documents remained at the residence, the person said. The Washington Post could not confirm the exact contents of the boxes Trump reportedly inspected.

Among the documents seized: material on foreign nuclear capabilities

According to public records, Nauta was originally from Guam. He enlisted in the military and eventually became a chef at the White House Dining Room, a small restaurant run by the Navy in the basement of the West Wing. In 2013, he participated in a military cooking competition as part of the team representing the President’s Catering Service.

Not long after Trump took office, Nota left the restaurant and became Trump’s valet, spending some of his workdays on a small passage that connects the West Wing to the private dining room. From there, he had access to a small refrigerator filled with Diet Coke, which Trump brought to the Oval when he pressed the call button on his desk, said a former White House staffer who asked not to be named. in front of the President in the shaped office. Activities inside the White House.

Nauta often works as a handyman, taking whatever the president might need throughout the day and tidying up the room, former staff said. When Trump left the Oval Office at night, it was Notta who brought his coat. Their daily proximity means the two have developed a close professional relationship, with Trump “completely trusting him,” the person added.

As part of his valet duties, Nota also moved boxes containing Trump’s documents between the Oval Office and his private study, as well as the private dining room that Trump used as an informal office, the former staffer said. . Trump routinely mixed classified documents with newspaper articles and other documents into that restaurant, according to multiple former White House officials, who have said Trump never strictly followed rules and practices for handling sensitive government material.

In Trump White House, classified documents are often mishandled, former aide says

The box that Notta moved at Mar-a-Lago at Trump’s instructions also contained classified documents and newspaper articles, according to people familiar with the matter.

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

Nauta is on the payroll for Trump’s PAC to save America in 2021, campaign finance records show. He was on the payroll as recently as August, earning $5,227.81 a year, or about $135,000, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

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

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