Trump valet’s arraignment delayed again in secret documents case

Waltine Nauta allegedly helped Trump hide documents taken from White House but was not arraigned with former president.

Waltine Nauta was indicted along with former President Donald Trump in a classified documents investigation [Alex Brandon/The Associated Press]

The arraignment of former President Donald Trump’s valet Waltine “Walt” Nauta, who is accused of helping his former boss hide classified documents from federal investigators, has again been delayed.

Nauta’s lawyer briefly appeared in federal court in Miami on Tuesday, telling the judge Nauta had not yet found Florida legal counsel to represent him in the case. His next appearance was set for July 6.

Nauta faces six counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice, false statements, and withholding and concealing documents. He had been in the same courtroom during Trump’s arraignment on June 13, but the proceedings against him were delayed for the same reasons given on Tuesday.

The Navy veteran had served as Trump’s valet at the White House before joining him as a personal aide at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Florida. He has since regularly been seen at the former president’s side, including when Trump stopped at the Versailles Cuban restaurant to greet supporters after his arraignment.

In a 49-page indictment, federal prosecutors laid out how Trump allegedly stored boxes containing sensitive documents haphazardly around Mar-a-Lago, including in bathrooms, ballrooms and a storage room near a pool.

At times, Trump allegedly told people in his orbit he possessed documents he knew to still be classified.

“The unauthorised disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods,” the indictment said.

As federal investigators ratcheted up their investigation, Trump is accused of trying to hide the documents in his possession, even from his own lawyer.

The former president enlisted Nauta to help hide the boxes, according to prosecutors. They also alleged that during a voluntary interview, Nauta lied to federal agents about not knowing about the boxes being moved.

As the indictment was unsealed, Trump came to Nauta’s defence, calling him “strong, brave and a great patriot” and alleging prosecutors were “trying to destroy his life, like the lives of so many others, hoping that he will say bad things about Trump”, he said.

Since Trump’s arraignment, Nauta and Trump have been allowed to be in contact, but they have been barred from discussing the facts of the case except through their attorneys.

Federal Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee who last year ruled for the former president in a civil lawsuit filed over the seizure of documents from his Mar-a-Lago resort, last week scheduled Trump’s trial to begin on August 14.

Prosecutors with US Special Counsel Jack Smith on Friday asked Cannon to delay the trial until December 11.

Cannon on Monday also set a July 14 hearing tied to how classified information in the case will be handled. Legal experts have said the complexities surrounding the use of highly classified documents as evidence are likely to delay the proceedings.

Meanwhile, US media released audio on Monday of a 2021 meeting in which Trump appeared to have acknowledged he was in possession of classified documents related to Iran.

“See, as president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t, you know,” Trump said at one point in the recording. “But this is classic. Isn’t that interesting? It’s so cool.”

Trump and his allies have offered various defences in terms of keeping the documents but have broadly maintained the president cooperated with investigators and did nothing wrong.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies