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Trump valet wants all Mar-a-Lago search evidence suppressed

Walt Nauta, left, takes a phone from Former President Donald Trump during the LIV Golf Pro-Am at Trump National Golf Club, Thursday, May 25, 2023, in Sterling, Va. When Trump appears in federal court in Miami, he will likely be joined on the witness stand by a man well-practiced in standing by his side: Nauta, his alleged valet turned co-conspirator. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

One of the co-defendants in former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents case is asking the judge in charge to rule that the evidence seized during the execution of the search warrant should be suppressed — ruled legally unfit to be used in the upcoming trial.

On Aug. 8, 2022, federal agents raided former the 45th president’s Palm Beach compound — part residence; part private club — returning with file boxes upon file boxes containing what federal prosecutors allege were illegally retained classified documents.

Trump’s personal valet, Waltine “Walt” Nauta was also named as an original co-defendant. In a superseding indictment, Mar-a-Lago maintenance chief Carlos de Oliveira was added as a co-defendant.

In a filing this week, Nauta argued the warrants used to execute the searches were invalid for various reasons, and the “evidentiary fruits” of those searches should be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment.

To hear Nauta tell it, the FBI’s affidavits used to support the search warrants did not contain sufficient probable cause.

“Each affidavit was drafted to create the false impression of probable cause to believe the defendant committed federal offenses under multiple statutes, when the government had no such evidence, nor even evidence that the defendant was aware of the commission of such offenses,” the defense motion to suppress argues.

Rather, the defendant argues, the FBI’s affidavits “were drafted in a manner that precluded” the judge who issued the search warrants from “making an independent determination of whether any national defense information was involved.”

“The affidavits, despite the inclusion of abundant false and misleading conclusory claims, fail to set forth probable cause of the commission of a crime by Nauta,” the motion goes on. “Nor, even with the attorney-client privileged communications improperly included in the warrant affidavits as to President Trump, did the affidavits show the commission of a crime by anyone.”

The defendant also argues that because the affidavits did not “offer an opinion by any intelligence officer that non-public information was at issue or that items with classification markings remained classified,” the evidence gathered from the ensuing searches should be tossed.

“[T]here was no valid basis to allege a criminal violation of § 793 by President Trump, much less any precedent for it,” the motion reads. “Presidents going back at least as far as Franklin Roosevelt had privately maintained information of such a character which even today has still not been turned over to the Archivist.”

In other words, Nauta says, the affidavits were far too broad and authorized something not entirely unlike a massive dragnet based only on the idea that Trump had maintained document caches he should not have. Essentially, the argument is that the government was on a fishing expedition with the Mar-a-Lago search.

Under the Fourth Amendment, such “general warrants” and general searches are considered impermissible, Nauta explains, citing a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court opinion authored by Antonin Scalia. The defense motion explicitly accuses federal agents of violating the Fourth Amendment — at various times up to the Mar-a-Lago raid.

“It is clear from review of the applications that the government sought warrants not for specific evidence proving the commission of crimes for which probable cause existed, but for the contrary purpose of a general search for any form of evidence that the government could take before a grand jury to then assert probable cause,” the filing continues. “In other words, the government violated the core function of the Fourth Amendment: barring general searches for a crime where the government lacks sufficient cause to believe the subject committed any offense.”

The motion goes on to argue the Mar-a-Lago warrants were part of an effort by a politicized U.S. Department of Justice to hamstring the electoral prospects of President Joe Biden’s political rival.

“[T]he selective, partisan, and vindictive use of criminal process in this case to undermine electoral participation by Donald Trump and to punish those who support or are employed by him, the misuse of process in this case, including the search warrant process, represents a grave threat to democracy,” the motion reads, ” the abuses outlined in this motion form only one part of that unconstitutional effort by the present Administration.”