Washington — Waltine “Walt” Nauta, former President Donald Trump’s employee and an ex-White House aide, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal charges alleging he helped Trump obstruct the Justice Department’s investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents.

Nauta appeared for a brief arraignment hearing in federal court in Miami on Thursday, and an attorney entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. Nauta’s defense lawyers had asked the judge to delay his arraignment twice in recent weeks so he could secure local representation. His team now includes Sasha Dadan, his newly hired Florida-based attorney.

In the indictment handed down last month by a federal grand jury in Florida that had been convened by special counsel Jack Smith, Nauta was charged with six counts related to the documents investigation, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and concealing records. Five of those counts named Trump as a co-defendant.

Nauta was charged individually with lying to investigators during an interview with the FBI in May 2022. Prosecutors alleged he lied about what he knew about dozens of boxes allegedly containing classified material that had been taken to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort as he left the White House.

The indictment accused Nauta of working with Trump to move and conceal the boxes, which also included personal items from Trump’s time in office. Prosecutors said the pair knew that some of the boxes contained sensitive material and that they were aware of the government’s interest in getting those records back into federal custody, but worked to resist those efforts.

On May 11, 2022, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., issued a subpoena requiring the former president’s representatives to hand over any and all documents with classified markings in his possession.

A Trump attorney arranged to travel to Mar-a-Lago to search for the documents, the indictment said. The indictment alleges that ahead of the search, Nauta helped move 64 boxes from a Mar-a-Lago storage room in which they were being held and brought them to the residential area of the resort, allegedly at Trump’s direction, to conceal them from the attorney.

In the boxes that remained in the storage room, the Trump attorney found 38 sensitive documents and arranged for Justice Department officials to collect them at Mar-a-Lago on June 3, 2022, according to the indictment.

Investigators later secured access to Mar-a-Lago security camera footage and allegedly saw the boxes being moved from the storage room before the attorney’s search. The indictment said federal investigators executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago for any remaining documents with classified markings. That August 2022 search yielded 103 documents marked classified.

According to a newly unsealed version of an affidavit that supported the August 2022 search warrant, investigators said Nauta — described in the document only as “Witness 5” — was allegedly seen in the video moving about 50 “Bankers boxes” from a room in Mar-a-Lago in the days after his FBI interview.

Trump is charged with 37 federal counts including the illegal retention of national defense information and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He pleaded not guilty to all counts and has consistently denied wrongdoing in the case, criticizing it as politically motivated.

A trial date is set for August, but prosecutors have requested that Judge Aileen Cannon push the proceedings back to at least December to allow for proper evidentiary discovery, and to make sure Trump’s defense team has the necessary security clearances required to examine the classified records. The defense is set to respond to the Justice Department’s request early next week.

More about: