Right off the bat I’ll say the suggestion in the title would be way more than unusual and hugely controversial. I can understand if your reaction is “has this guy lost his mind?” or something similar but in rather less polite language. I can also understand fellow veterans asking “is this actually possible?” Well, I’ll ask you to read on, and think on it for a while. And then decide on your answer to the Title Question.
It’s not exactly lost in the news coverage but Trump’s indictment (and soon arraignment) on National Security charges due to illegally taking, retaining and even showing (to people without clearance) classified documents and other information includes another guy. His “body man”, retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Walt Nauta. Smith has Nauta dead to rights with video of him moving boxes, text messages about moving them, pictures from Nauta’s own freaking cell phone and who knows what else? But Nauta is now under federal indictment just like Trump and looking at a long, long time behind bars.
However, Trump is covering his legal bills (meaning Nauta’s lawyer is going to put Trump’s interests first) and has probably convinced Nauta who has gulped down entire vats of orange Kool Aid he once helped make to keep silent. Trump has also convinced Nauta they will both beat the rap, or at least delay things past the election, and that Trump will win and pardon him. Nauta could have flipped long ago and gotten a deal of some sort. Not a great one but a whole lot better than what he’s facing if convicted. Still, he likes his odds if he sticks with Trump so he’s refused to cooperate in exchange for some leniency.
So let’s take a look at Nauta to see what led him to where he finds himself today, and more importantly why he thinks he might walk away from all this unscathed.
Nauta met Trump because he was a steward assigned to the the WH years before Trump became President. As a steward with the Navy Mess (that means culinary worker folks) it’s natural he’d have met Trump at times, just as people in that kind of job meet any President and higher ups. Somebody has to take the meals, the snacks, the drinks upstairs and serve them to the high up folks. Anyway, the two hit it off and eventually Nauta became a “body man” for Trump, an aid Presidents have nearby at all times to see to really mundane but necessary stuff. In fact it was Nauta who came up with the “red button” idea so Trump could call up someone to bring him a Diet Coke or a snack. For Trump that’s more than enough to decide someone has Trump Org. high management chops! Trump like Nauta enough to order his promotion to Chief Petty Officer, a BFD if you know how things work. Getting to Staff NCO rank is a BFD in any branch but moving up to E-7 is really huge.
Given the state of things it was natural for Nauta to follow Trump down to FL. But this is where it gets interesting. Nauta enlisted in the Navy in July, 2001. He retired in September 2021. Got that? He put in twenty years meaning retirement with all the benefits goodies. It also means something else. The charges in the indictment show a pattern of conduct, as in Nauta taking part of stealing the National Security documents in the first place, and then committing multiple acts at Trump’s direction to obstruct justice and hide them so his boss wouldn’t have to give them back while still on active duty in the Navy! (Check those dates in the various counts.)
It’s reasonable here for you to ask what this article has to do with Smith handing Nauta over to the DOD so let me explain.
Even someone who serves a single four year enlistment often will join an active Reserve unit to continue to build up retirement benefits like PX privileges and the full range of medical care including dental. And some other stuff. Most don’t due to the one weekend per month and two weeks a year part. Spouses and employers often object. (Yes, I know it’s illegal for employers to create problems but don’t get me going on that one. They can and do and they get away with it!) However it’s standard for even a “four years of active duty and I’m done with the military” people to at least have another four years of obligation in what is called the Individual Ready Reserve. If you’re in the IRR you don’t really have any obligations like attending drills or stuff like that. When I left active duty in 1988 I recall a yearly drive down to Quantico (I lived in the DC area) for a short lecture and video that was a “If needed people in Active Reserve Units will be first to get called back to active duty, then next are you folks in the IRR so keep fit and don’t forget stuff about your M.O.S. – see you next year” and that was it. As far as I know back in those days nothing happened to those who blew off even that minimal requirement.
The point however is that everyone is subject to recall to active duty for years after leaving the military. Normally it takes a declared National Emergency to recall someone in the IRR but it can happen for other reasons. So, in theory just like anyone else Nauta would be subject to recall in special circumstances like say having violated the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) for multiple felonies committed back when on active duty. Which Nauta did.
Oh, but it gets better! Remember where I said Nauta was a retired Chief Petty Officer? That means he was NAVY. Each branch has it’s own quirks but the Navy is quite different than the other branches. There’s information on Military.com that explains it well:
When it comes to retaining and recalling retirees and officers, each military service handles the situation its own way.
For example, in the Navy, when an enlisted member retires after 20 years of active duty, they are transferred to the Fleet Reserve. They remain in the Fleet Reserve until they have a total of 30 years’ service, then are transferred to the retired rolls. That means that, if you are a Navy retiree who retired nine years ago, you may be recalled to active duty if there is a reserve recall.
So, while it would be unusual to recall someone to active duty to be tried under the UCMJ, Courts-Martial offenses, and stealing or aiding in the stealing of National Security documents/information and Obstruction of Justice by taking active part in a conspiracy to hide them from the government sure seems like enough to me. Just like if someone who spent a career working in Supply or Disbursing (the money handlers) were discovered after leaving active duty to have committed felonies (black market sales of supplies, weapons for example, or for Disbursing folks embezzling a bunch of money) would be recalled and charged under the UCMJ. When it comes to Courts-Martial their are four types. The highest level, a General Court Martial carries the same force of law as a civilian felony conviction.
There’s more than one reason I like this option for Nauta. First and most important even though Nauta spent much of his career in the cocoon of DC and the even smaller one of the WH he knows damn well that while he’d have the same rights in a General Court Martial as in a federal civilian court, when it comes to the judge and jury he’d be facing something Trump and MAGA can’t influence. The members, Officers all would if the evidence was there (and it is) take a VERY harsh view of a defendant. And despite public belief to the contrary the annual Military Times survey has from the beginning shown that unlike in the past more Officers have viewed Trump unfavorably than favorably. It got worse over time. Enlisted pukes (I use that term in a fun way because I was one!) still inexplicably maintained an overall positive view of Trump but not the Officer Corps.
And the panel of members in a Court Martial is only Officers.
Nauta seems to believe despite all the evidence, Trump/Trumpism or even jury nullification can save him from Jack Smith. But the same factors Natua is counting on in federal court down in FL would work against him in a General Court Martial! I can assure you Nauta wants NO part of spending a couple of decades or more at Portsmouth or Quantico in the brig! If Smith hasn’t done so (and I realize how “political” it would look) he should strongly consider jumping through the hoops with Garland and SecDef Austin to at least get authorization to have Nauta recalled to active duty to stand trial via a General Court Martial. Maybe I’m completely full of crap but if Smith’s team sat down with Nauta and showed him the memo authorizing that recall Nauta would get real serious and real fast.
When his Trump paid attorney tried to lean on him Nauta would finally realize what some others from the Trump WH, like Cassidy Hutchinson did which is that if the attorney is paid for by Trump that attorney is working for Trump and not for them. Nauta would ask for time to get a new attorney of his own choosing and if you think Trump has freaked out already we will see a level of freak out beyond human imagination.
If Nauta sticks with Trump he will be an old man before he breathes free air again. But I have a more petty, vindictive reason for wanting Nauta to be convicted at a General Court Martial. Beyond a longer sentence and serving it in harsher conditions than many federal pens, and the problems any convicted felon faces (especially if not well off financially) when they get out. Nope. Conviction under the UCMJ in a General Court Martial would mean loss of ALL military benefits! No VA health care. No PZ or base access privileges. Hell, not even flag for his coffin when he dies!
F**k him. I want him to lose it ALL!
However, in exchange for a lesser prison sentence and having it imposed in civilian court he can hang on at least to his retiree benefits. Which he’ll need. I for one think that would be enough to get him to finally flip on Trump. Still, I haven’t gotten to the best part!
Flipping on Trump is huge. No question about that. But as Trump’s “body man” he saw and heard all manner of stuff that could, if he becomes a cooperating witness cause quite a few Trump cronies and various hanger’s on/co-conspirators a$$hole snap shut hard enough to turn turds into diamonds! Bear in mind how easily such people are just “there”, and pretty much after a while just part of the scenery that after having been viewed so often gets ignored!
Jack Smith doesn’t need Nauta on the witness stand to convict Trump in the National Security case about classified information. He’s got tapes of Nauta, and texts and no doubt other stuff. But remember, Smith is also working to build a case about Trump’s involvement in January 6! A cooperating Nauta could be the linchpin to take down not just Trump, but Stone, Bannon and others.
Again, I freely admit all this is unusual/unorthodox and even controversial. Still, I think it’s worth considering.