Throughout his life, Donald Trump has been searching for loyalty. “I’m like this great loyalty freak. I’m loyal to the point of the absurd. I stay with people,” he said in a 1994 ABC News interview with Marla Maples, the second of his three wives.
Tragically, Trump can’t find people who meet his high loyalty standards. His longtime “fixer” Michael Cohen selfishly wanted to shorten his prison sentence, so he ratted to the Feds; now Trump is facing a criminal indictment. Although Trump was up front with James Comey about his needs, the FBI director strung him along, promising “honest loyalty”; Trump was eventually forced to fire him, sparking the Mueller investigation. And dozens of Trump’s White House associates — from daughter-adviser Ivanka Trump to lower-level staffers — have refused to join his quest to make the White House Trump-y again. As the Washington Post reports:
Nearly all of the other staffers who spent significant time with Trump in the White House have left his employ or found consulting roles in his political operation, which requires less personal interaction with the former commander in chief. Many were burned out by Trump’s volcanic temper and the tendency for their work to result in attorney’s fees and appointments with federal prosecutors, according to several who have departed, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
But there is one White House aide who has literally and figuratively remained by Trump’s side as others have abandoned and betrayed him: Walt Nauta. The man who once served as Trump’s Diet Coke valet in the White House is now his personal aide and gofer as well as a ubiquitous presence at Trump’s 2024 campaign events. The Post profiled Nauta over the weekend, shedding some light on how he became such a key figure in Trump’s orbit.
1. He just does his job, a rarity in Trumpworld.
Nauta is no Cousin Greg. The Post reports that while many other White House staffers were preoccupied with palace intrigue and scheming for more power, Nauta simply performed his duties capably:
Some staffers who worked in the White House with Nauta recalled that in the freewheeling world of the Trump administration, he was one of the few staffers who appeared to perform his role — no more, no less.
“He was like, ‘Hey, I work in the White House and have a particular job here,’” said one former senior administration official.
As a military valet, Nauta lingered outside the Oval Office, waiting to see if Trump needed anything — a Diet Coke, his overcoat, a piece of paper. Staffers said Nauta did not engage in political chitchat or White House gossip and, in a world where aides were constantly edging into Oval Office meetings uninvited, seemed content to remain on the other side of the closed door.
2. Trump can’t find anyone else.
In January 2021, Trump was so caught up in pretending he’d won a second term that he hadn’t bothered to hire any competent staffers to join him at Mar-a-Lago. “Walt was the one working at the end,” a former official told the Post. “He was the only one around.”
Nauta was the only White House valet who followed Trump to Mar-a-Lago. He remained on active military duty as Trump settled into his postpresidential life, then briefly returned to Washington, D.C., when his tour was over. But Trump’s team quickly realized it couldn’t function without him.
“There was a need for someone who wasn’t too proud to get a new tie, pick up dry cleaning, follow him around on the golf course, staff his dinners, do things that a lot of people just aren’t dying to spend their whole life doing,” one senior Trump adviser told the Post.
Nauta left the military and returned to work for Trump as a civilian in September 2021. He’s now making more than $120,000 a year, according to the paper:
Since then, campaign finance records show, Trump’s PAC has paid Nauta a salary of just over $10,000 a month. Nauta also gets $769 a month from public funds that Trump — as a former president — may use to pay staff, General Services Administration records show, as well as occasional consulting fees from the PAC. In December, after Trump announced he was running for president, Nauta’s salary came from the campaign operation as well. He was paid around $14,500 that month, in addition to the GSA stipend. His year-end bonus from the PAC, an additional payment, rose from $2,000 in 2021 to $3,000.
3. He’s not afraid of a little legal jeopardy.
There was a moment last fall when it looked as if Trump and Nauta’s bond might have fizzled like a flat soda. It was reported that Nauta, following an initial denial, admitted to FBI agents that Trump had personally directed him to move boxes of sensitive documents from a Mar-a-Lago storage area to his private residence. This information was key to the Feds’ claim that Trump obstructed their investigation by failing to turn over classified documents.
But Trump was uncharacteristically cool about Nauta bending to pressure from federal investigators — or he decided it’s best to keep him close and pay his legal fees. The Post reports:
Nauta is now represented by Brand Woodward Law, a firm whose clients include other Trump staffers. Campaign finance reports show the firm was paid $120,000 by Trump’s PAC through November, and people familiar with the matter told The Post late last year the money went to cover legal bills for Nauta and other potential witnesses.
Stan Brand, the firm’s top lawyer, has previously said there was nothing inappropriate about the PAC’s payments on Nauta’s behalf, but other legal experts questioned whether it could affect testimony from him and other witnesses. The firm received no additional payments from the PAC in December, campaign finance reports show.
4. Nauta lets Trump be Trump.
For years, Trump has been surrounded by staffers, family members, and staffer family members who are trying to change him. But Nauta never tells him “Sir, you can’t bomb Mexico” or “Daddy, please call off the protesters.” According to the Post, Nauta keeps it professional:
When Trump dined with the rapper formerly known as Kanye West and white supremacist Nick Fuentes in November, Nauta ushered the group to their table before leaving them alone to talk.
“He is very sheepish and asks permission for everything. If he makes a mistake, he’s mortified and apologetic. He is very, very formal with the president, and very stoic. ‘Yes, sir. Understood.’ He doesn’t say a ton,” the adviser said. “He’s willing to do whatever; he’s a valet. The valet world has never left him.”
Finally, Trump has found a trusty ally who’s quick with a Diet Coke but slow to call him out for all the awful things he does.
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