The search warrant affidavit used to demonstrate probable cause doesn’t describe how, on May 22 of last year, the former valet spent over half an hour in the storage room, and then left carrying a single box.
53. On May 22, 2022, NAUTA entered the Storage Room at 3:47 p.m. and left approximately 34 minutes later, carrying one of TRUMP’s boxes.
There are several possible explanations why that description may not be in the search warrant affidavit.
Perhaps investigators didn’t think it important — though that would be hard to believe, given that the affidavit observes something that the indictment does not as explicitly: that all this box moving happened in the same period when Nauta disavowed any knowledge of box movement.
On May 30, 2022, four days after WITNESS 5’s interview with the FBI during which the location of boxes was a significant subject of questioning, WITNESS 5 is observed exiting the ANTEROOM doorway with approximately fifty Bankers boxes, consistent with the description of the FPOTUS BOXES. [my emphasis]
Perhaps investigators simply didn’t see Nauta and the single box on May 22. But note that the surveillance video was motion activated, so any movement on May 22 should show up just like all the other movement did, and in close proximity to his movements captured two days later.
[T]he FBI determined that the drive contained video footage from four cameras in the basement hallway of the PREMISES in which the door to the STORAGE ROOM is located. The footage on the drive begins on April 23, 2022, and ends on June 24, 2022. The recording feature of the cameras appears to be motion activated, so that footage is only captured when motion is detected within each camera’s field of view.
Or perhaps this movement, Nauta spending half an hour in the storage room then leaving with a single box, is one of the surveillance footage gaps that investigators spent much of a year trying to fill and explain.
The different treatment of this one box is more interesting given other details of the timeline.
For example, Nauta retrieved that single box just two days before the original deadline for the subpoena, May 24.
The return date of the subpoena was May 24, 2022.
Nauta retrieved that box the day before Trump met with Corcoran and another attorney who hasn’t been IDed yet, but who may be Boris Epshteyn. At the meeting, a day after presumably getting a box that didn’t show up in the search warrant affidavit, Trump whined that, “I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes!”
54. On May 23, 2022, TRUMP met with Trump Attorney 1 and Trump Attorney 2 at The Mar-a-Lago Club to discuss the response to the May 11 Subpoena. Trump Attorney 1 and Trump Attorney 2 told TRUMP that they needed to search for documents that would be responsive to the subpoena and provide a certification that there had been compliance with the subpoena. TRUMP, in sum and substance, made the following statements, among others, as memorialized by Trump Attorney 1:
a. I don’t want anybody looking, I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t, I don’t want you looking through my boxes.
b. Well what if we, what happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them?
c. Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?
d. Well look isn’t it better if there are no documents?
Amidst all that whining, Trump agreed to let Corcoran search for documents, but only after a ten day delay. And then Trump delayed his departure to Bedminster so he would be at Mar-a-Lago to sort boxes and to see the scheme through.
56. On May 23, TRUMP also confirmed his understanding with Trump Attorney 1 that Trump Attorney 1 would return to The Mar-a-Lago Club on June 2 to search for any documents with classification markings to produce in response to the May 11 Subpoena. Trump Attorney 1 made it clear to TRUMP that Trump Attorney 1 would conduct the search for responsive documents by looking through TRUMP’s boxes that had been transported from the White House and remained in storage at The Mar-a-Lago Club. TRUMP indicated that he wanted to be at The Mar-a-Lago Club when Trump Attorney 1 returned to review his boxes on June 2, and that TRUMP would change his summer travel plans to do so. TRUMP told Trump Attorney 2 that Trump Attorney 2 did not need to be present for the review of boxes.
57. After meeting with Trump Attorney 1 and Trump Attorney 2 on May 23, TRUMP delayed his departure from The Mar-a-Lago Club to The Bedminster Club for the summer so that he would be present at The Mar-a-Lago Club on June 2, when Trump Attorney 1 returned to review the boxes.
Something that doesn’t show up in the indictment but does in the affidavit is that Corcoran then pushed for an extension on the subpoena deadline.
On May 25, 2022, while negotiating for an extension of the subpoena, FPOTUS COUNSEL 1 sent two letters to DOJ COUNSEL. In the second such letter, which is attached as Exhibit 1, FPOTUS COUNSEL 1 asked DOJ to consider a few “principles,” which include FPOTUS COUNSEL 1’s claim that a President has absolute authority to declassify documents. In this letter, FPOTUS COUNSEL 1 requested, among other things, that “DOJ provide this letter to any judicial officer who is asked to rule on any motion pertaining to this investigation, or on any application made in connection with any investigative request concerning this investigation.”
Just one of the two letters Corcoran sent that day has been released — the one falsely claiming Trump had returned documents in good faith earlier that year, though Corcoran may not have known that was false. Nauta would repeat a version of that claim the next day, on May 26, in his FBI interview, though unlike Corcoran, he is credibly accused of knowing well that was a lie.
All the other movement of boxes, then, occurs during that subpoena extension (and this might be another reason why the May 22 movement is not included on the affidavit — perhaps investigators focused on what happened during the subpoena extension). Nauta empties the storage closet of 64 more boxes, moving all these boxes in the same week when, in an FBI interview, he allegedly denied knowing anything about an earlier scheme to sort through boxes.
On May 24, 2022, WITNESS 5 is observed exiting the ANTEROOM doorway with three boxes.
On May 30, 2022, four days after WITNESS 5’s interview with the FBI during which the location of boxes was a significant subject of questioning, WITNESS 5 is observed exiting the ANTEROOM doorway with approximately fifty Bankers boxes, consistent with the description of the FPOTUS BOXES. FBI did not observe this quantity of boxes being returned to the STORAGE ROOM through the ANTEROOM entrance in its review of the footage.
The next day, on June 1, 2022, WITNESS 5 is observed carrying eleven brown cardboard boxes out the ANTEROOM entrance. One box did not have a lid on it and appeared to contain papers.
And then, after Nauta told a female Trump that Trump wanted to pick from all those boxes, Nauta loaded up several of the boxes withheld from Corcoran’s search onto Trump’s plane to take to Bedminster, never to be seen again.
72. Earlier [on June 3], NAUTA and others loaded several of TRUMP’s boxes along with other items on aircraft that flew TRUMP and his family north for the summer.
So it may or may not be a significant detail, but the day before Trump orchestrates this scheme to keep 35 boxes shielded from Corcoran’s search, Nauta spent half an hour in the storage room retrieving a single box.
Some weeks after this scheme, on June 21, the day before DOJ asked Trump Organization for surveillance footage, per the discovery letter, Nauta appeared before a grand jury, his second (and only other) interview with investigators.
A bunch of reports last year, such as this one from Devlin Barrett that likely confuses Nauta with Molly Michael, described that Nauta changed his testimony in what would be this grand jury appearance, admitting that Trump ordered him to move boxes.
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.
But those reports came at a time when DOJ was still trying to get more testimony from Nauta.
Prosecutors have indicated they are skeptical of an initial account Mr. Nauta gave investigators about moving documents stored at Mar-a-Lago and 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.
So, particularly given that a grand jury appearance would have been in — and so would be charged — in DC, it’s not really clear whether Nauta did correct his story before the grand jury. If he didn’t, Jack Smith could prosecute Nauta individually on a perjury charge that might go to trial within months, not the year the Espionage Act trial is expected to take.
Whether or not he cleaned up his testimony, on June 21, Nauta appeared before the grand jury.
Having locked that testimony in, on June 22 prosecutors asked Trump Organization — probably Alan Garten, from whom discovery has been deficient in past investigations — for surveillance footage.
DOJ COUNSEL has advised me that on or about June 22, 2022, counsel for the Trump Organization, a group of business entities associated with FPOTUS, confirmed that the Trump Organization maintains security cameras in the vicinity of the STORAGE ROOM and that on June 24, 2022, counsel for the Trump Organization agreed to accept service of a grand jury subpoena for footage from those cameras.
Shortly after that, per reporting on some of the last grand jury testimony banked in DC before DOJ took steps to charge the Espionage charges in Florida, Nauta called Chief of Operations for Trump Organization, Matthew Calamari Sr.
To resolve the issue about the gaps in the surveillance footage, the special counsel last week subpoenaed Matthew Calamari Sr, the Trump Organization’s security chief who became its chief operating officer, and his son Matthew Calamari Jr, the director of corporate security.
Both Calamaris testified to the federal grand jury in Washington on Thursday, and were questioned in part on a text message that Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, had sent them around the time that the justice department last year asked for the surveillance footage, one of the people said.
The text message is understood to involve Nauta asking Matthew Calamari Sr to call him back about the justice department’s request, one of the people said – initially a point of confusion for the justice department, which appears to have thought the text was to Calamari Jr.
Then, less than two weeks later, on July 6, Trump Organization provided DOJ with surveillance footage showing Nauta moving a great many boxes out of the storage room, and moving fewer than half of them back in before Evan Corcoran searched them. That’s pretty damning stuff! It provided some of the most compelling evidence in the affidavit justifying a search on the former President’s beach resort.
DOJ only got two months of footage, not the five they had asked for (which would have covered the tail end of the earlier sort of boxes). That’s unsurprising: even normal businesses only retain such footage for a limited period of time.
But in addition to obtaining fewer months than they had requested, the footage Trump Org turned over reportedly had other gaps, gaps that have not yet been charged or even mentioned, at least in unsealed form, in any official DOJ filing.
What’s unclear is whether that May 22 footage, showing that Nauta spent half an hour in the storage closet only to come out with a single box, was originally one of those surveillance gaps or not.