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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Walt Nauta

Rats scuttled into their holes all around Washington, D.C. this morning as news arrived that prosecutors running the investigation of Donald Trump’s handling of classified and non-classified documents he took from the White House in January of 2021 are seeking a third interview with a witness who was seen on Mar a Lago video security footage moving boxes from the basement storage room at Trump’s resort/hotel/club/residence.

The New York Times reported that the witness in question is a former Navy cook from Guam who worked in the White House mess before becoming a personal valet to Trump. He has been described as the guy who brought Trump his Diet Cokes in the Oval Office. After Trump lost his attempts to overturn the election and was forced to leave the White House, the former valet, Walt Nauta, followed Trump to Mar-a-Lago in Florida and apparently took up the same duties as a private employee of the former president. It was in this capacity that prosecutors saw Nauta moving the boxes on the video footage from Mar-a-Lago.

The security video footage shows Nauta carrying the boxes as he exits the Mar-a-Lago storage room into a short hallway in the basement. The security footage apparently ends there and does not show where Nauta took the boxes.

In an interview earlier this year, Nauta told DOJ investigators he carried the boxes from the storage room to Trump’s residence at the direction of the former president. During a second interview, Nauta was apparently “less specific,” about who told him to take the boxes to Trump’s residence, according to today’s report in the Times. DOJ prosecutors are seeking a third interview with Nauta to clear up the apparent discrepancy between the first and second interviews.

According to the Times, prosecutors did not show Nauta the security video footage when they interviewed him, indicating strongly that the security footage may be the source of at least some of the DOJ’s questions about Nauta’s veracity during his first two interviews. Prosecutors have also taken testimony from other witnesses who work at Mar-a-Lago and may have information from them which contradicts what Nauta has told them.

According to the Times, “at some point while Mr. Nauta was engaged with the Justice Department about the boxes, he changed lawyers, hiring two Washington criminal defense attorneys.” Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys specialized in white-collar crime do not come cheap. There have been reports that lawyers hired by people questioned during the Russia investigation charged upwards of $1000 an hour, which raises an interesting question: How did a valet working at Mar-a-Lago come into the kind of money it would take to hire such lawyers? Trump has been paying his own legal bills with money he has raised for his Save America PAC, which he formed days after the TV networks called the 2020 election for Joe Biden. It is not known if Trump has paid Nauta’s legal bills, although it has been reported that the Trump superPAC has paid the bills of other Trump associates who have become wrapped up in the various investigations faced by the former president.

The DOJ is also investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the election of 2020, including his involvement in the formation and submission of slates of fake electors to the Congress on January 6.

The DOJ has put Kash Patel before the D.C. grand jury investigating Trump’s handling of the top secret Mar-a-Lago documents. Patel is a former Trump administration official who served in various capacities over the four years Trump was in the White House and was appointed by Trump as one of his two representatives to the National Archives concerning the documents he removed from the White House.

Without providing any evidence that it happened, Patel has told reporters that Trump declassified all the documents he took with him to Mar-a-Lago. The Times reported today that sources in Washington say that Patel took the Fifth Amendment multiple times while giving testimony to the grand jury investigating the documents case. Prosecutors believe that Patel can provide information about Trump’s intentions regarding the documents recovered during the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago in August. Recall that they found 22,000 documents, including 103 folders of classified material, some of it with the highest security markings that the government can bestow on secret documents.

One of the crimes Trump is suspected of committing is obstruction of justice. Both Patel and Nauta could provide information about why Trump took the documents in the first place, and ordered them moved around after he had been issued a subpoena demanding that he return the documents. Trump refused to comply completely with the subpoena, and it was only after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago that the 22,000 documents were recovered by the government.

According to the Times, the DOJ is now debating how it can force Patel to testify before the grand jury again. It’s a difficult question, because there are pluses and minuses involved in giving a witness immunity from prosecution. The Times reported that the DOJ may be considering other options, such as trying to get Patel to cooperate by threatening him with prosecution but offering a deal for lesser charges or a reduced sentence if he agrees to cooperate in the investigation.

Good luck with that, DOJ. Patel is a slimy little creature who once worked for Devin Nunes and was involved in the great secret documents incident early in the Russia investigation when Nunes, who was on the House Intelligence Committee, announced that he had “found” documents “proving” that President Obama had spied on Trump campaign officials. The documents Nunes “found,” which did no such thing, were actually handed to him in the offices of the National Security Council by Kash Patel, who then worked there in some minor capacity.

Patel’s loyalty to Trump sent him on to bigger and better things. During his last days as President, Trump tried to appoint Patel as deputy director of the CIA, a move that was successfully blocked by Pat Cipollone, Trump’s White House counsel. Then he tried to appoint Patel as deputy director of the FBI -- which according to his memoir, former Attorney General William Barr told Mark Meadows, then White House chief of staff, would happen only “over my dead body.”

Both moves by Trump to elevate Patel to positions in the FBI and CIA are thought to be related to Trump’s obsession with the Russia investigation. In his capacity as Trump’s representative to the National Archives, Patel attempted to declassify documents from the Special Counsel investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The National Archives refused to declassify the documents and make them public, as Patel had demanded on behalf of Trump. Patel reportedly has knowledge about the initial removal of the 22,000 documents from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. Busy, busy, busy has been Kash Patel as a loyal worker-bee for Donald Trump. And now busy, busy, busy he must be with his lawyers trying to fight being hauled before the Washington grand jury yet again.

All of the recent reporting about the witnesses the DOJ has called to testify before its Washington grand jury and the matter of Walt Nauta indicate that the investigation of Trump’s removal of classified and non-classified documents from the White House, and their handling once under his control at Mar a Lago, is far from over.

I’m on the story. Watch this space.

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