Trump documents case: Two key focuses for federal prosecutors

U.S. President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, March 25, 2018, after returning from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Trump documents case: Two key focuses for federal prosecutors

Ryan King

October 24, 08:38 PM October 24, 08:38 PM

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The Justice Department is reportedly increasing pressure on key witnesses in the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s handling of documents after leaving office.

Two people in particular whom prosecutors have sought to squeeze for information are former White House valet Walt Nauta and former Trump administration official Kash Patel, the New York Times reported on Monday. Prosecutors are keen on getting them to answer questions as they investigate possible violations of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice.


Following a stint as White House valet and cook during Trump’s presidency, Nauta traveled to Mar-a-Lago and worked as a versatile aide at Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, resort. Nauta has already answered questions from investigators, but they are skeptical about his account of his role in moving boxes loaded with documents, per the report.

At one point during questioning, Nauta gave an answer that appeared to contract a prior remark he made to investigators. This has given authorities possible leverage over him, using the prospects of charges to nudge him into sitting for another interview, according to the New York Times.

Investigators have security camera footage of Nauta moving boxes at the resort, but they did not divulge that to him during the initial round of questioning, sources told the news outlet. The Washington Post previously reported that a Mar-a-Lago employee told investigators Trump gave the order to move boxes to his residency in Mar-a-Lago after a May subpoena.

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That report sparked speculation from legal experts that Trump’s odds of getting indicted over the Mar-a-Lago situation skyrocketed.

In addition to Nauta, investigators are eager to secure cooperation from Patel. Patel, who served roles in the Pentagon and White House, was an early defender of Trump following the FBI Aug. 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago and publicly insisted that Trump declassified the material in question.

Patel appeared before a grand jury in the documents investigation, CNN reported. However, he largely invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer questions during a grand jury appearance, per the New York Times. He was designated a Trump representative to the National Archives amid the back-and-forth over documents.

Trump has publicly denied wrongdoing in the matter, declaring that he declassified the documents in question and that a president can declassify material “even by thinking about it.”

FBI officials conducted the August raid after determining that sensitive documentation may have been left at Trump’s Palm Beach resort despite multiple attempts to retrieve all outstanding material that the government says should be returned. In total, government officials retrieved about 200,000 pages’ worth of documents, which encompassed about 100 documents with classified documents, according to court documents. Some of the material marked classified bore labels ranging from “CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET information,” per court records.

Trump and the Justice Department are locked in a dispute over materials that may be considered privileged. Judge Raymond Dearie was appointed as the special master third-party reviewer to root out material that he believes should be shielded from federal investigators. The Justice Department is appealing the appointment of a special master in the case.

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