Donald Trump could ultimately be done in by his Diet Coke habit. Not physically (though drinking 12 diet sodas a day doesn’t seem great for your health) but legally. The Washington Post reported recently that his former White House valet — the man who had to respond every time the president pressed his famous Oval Office Diet Coke button — provided key evidence that led to the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago in August.
A Trump employee told federal agents the former president personally directed them to move boxes of documents from a Mar-a-Lago storage area to his private residence, according to the Post. Hours later, the New York Times said this was corroborated by surveillance footage that showed the aide moving boxes both before and after Trump’s advisers received a subpoena from the Justice Department in May for classified documents taken from the White House. Together, the witness account and the footage provided the most direct evidence that Trump tried to illegally obstruct the government’s search.
The Post’s original report said the witness’s account was a “closely held secret” within the Justice Department and FBI because authorities were “concerned that if or when the witness’s identity eventually becomes public, that person could face harassment or threats from Trump supporters.” But on October 13, the paper identified him as Walt Nauta. Nauta, 39, served in the Navy and worked his way up from being a cook in the White House mess to performing a key duty in the Trump administration: ensuring that the president was properly caffeine and aspartame fueled at all times. Per the Post:
Not long after Trump took office, Nauta left the mess to become one of Trump’s valets, spending some of his workday in a small passageway that connects the West Wing to a private dining room. From there, he had access to a small refrigerator stocked with Diet Cokes, which he brought to the president in the Oval Office when Trump pressed a call button on his desk, said a former White House staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss activities inside the White House.
Nauta frequently served as a kind of gofer, fetching any items the president might need throughout the day and tidying up the room, the former staffer said. When Trump left the Oval Office for the night, it was Nauta who brought his coat. Their daily proximity meant that the two developed a close professional relationship, and Trump “trusted him completely,” this person added.
Nauta followed Trump to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his term, and campaign-finance records show he was on the payroll of Trump’s Save America PAC, making about $135,000 a year. It seems Trump’s trust wasn’t entirely misplaced; the Post reports that Nauta resisted betraying his boss at first but eventually changed his story:
When FBI agents first interviewed Nauta, he denied any role in moving boxes or sensitive documents, the 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 starkly different story — that Trump instructed him to move the boxes, these people said.
On October 25, The New York Times reported that prosecutors are “using the specter of charges against him for misleading investigators to persuade him to sit again for questioning, according to two people briefed on the matter.”
Nauta’s alleged disloyalty is a crushing blow not just for Trump but also for Downton Abbey fans, who were led to believe over six seasons and two movies that a valet is someone who will hand-wash unmentionables, happily accept their lower station in life, and never, ever tell their wealthy employer’s dark secrets.
This post was updated to note that prosecutors are reportedly pressuring Nauta to testify.
More tremendous content
- Trump Finally Reveals He’d Rather Die by Electrocution Than by Shark
- Master Dealmaker Melania Trump Keeps Renegotiating Her Prenup
- Christie Will Not Stop Trying to Make ‘Donald Duck’ Happen