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Home High profile Jack Smith denies Trump valet’s claim of unlawful FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, saying it did not happen there

Jack Smith denies Trump valet’s claim of unlawful FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, saying it did not happen there

For example, on June 24, 2022, the same day the Justice Department sent lawyers for the Trump Organization a subpoena for closed circuit security footage, and three days after Nauta testified to a grand jury, Nauta had started organizing a secret trip to Mar-a-Lago for the next day (June 25).

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Left: Former President Donald Trump's butler, Walt Nauta, at the civil fraud case against Donald Trump at the NYS Supreme Courthouse on October 24, 2023 in New York City. Siegfried Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2023 10/24/23./Right: Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to the media about an indictment of former President Donald Trump, Aug. 1, 2023, at an office of the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Left: Donald Trump’s butler, Walt Nauta, at a civil fraud case against Trump in New York City. Right: Special counsel Jack Smith speaks about an indictment of Trump at an office of the Department of Justice in Washington.

“It didn't happen here.”

That statement is from the special counsel Jack Smith and shaped his entire response to Donald Trump valet Walt Nauta’s claim that searches at Mar-a-Lago were unconstitutional, as part of the espionage case against the former president and his co-defendants.

As per Law&Crime recently reported, Nauta— one of Trump’s co-defendants, along with Mar-a-Lago property maintenance head Carlos de Oliveira— argues that the searches conducted at the Florida property were improper, and that certain boxes taken in the search should be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure.

Nauta challenges the FBI affidavits for lacking sufficient probable cause and questioned whether the judge who signed the warrants made the correct “independent determination” about the level of sensitivity or threat to national security of the contents of the boxes at Trump’s club and private residence.

In a response brief, Smith worked to dispute Nauta’s claims, telling presiding U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that the FBI’s warrant process had a sufficient level of detail, confirming there were “no materially misleading omissions” in any FBI affidavits used to justify the warrant.

Warrants were issued for two of Nauta’s phones, his car (only to seize the phones), an email account, and his iCloud account in October and November 2022 by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart. Another warrant was issued in February 2023 by Chief Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C. for his Google account and for cell data from his Verizon phone.

Smith mentioned that filter protocols were in place and correctly applied to ensure that any information found would be properly protected or segregated as privileged materials. Filter teams do not inform prosecutors of the content of protected materials, nor do they operate without agreement from defense counsel, unless a court order deems otherwise in a special circumstance.

When the cell location warrant was requested and issued in Washington, D.C. last February, Smith wrote, “there was nothing improper, as Nauta insinuates.” The venue was proper, and despite Nauta’s contentions, no filter protocols were necessary in that warrant because it specifically sought location information only, not the contents of Nauta’s communications on the device.

The special counsel says the likely reason is clear. Nauta, who used to work for Trump and had high-level security clearance, helped pack items from the White House to move to Mar-a-Lago in January 2021. He brought boxes to Florida for Trump to review, but Trump told him to stop after about 15 to 17 boxes. By January 17, 2022, 15 boxes were given to the Archives.

Investigators found highly classified documents mixed with other records. Smith said Nauta provided false or misleading statements to investigators at least twice about when he moved boxes and where.

The FBI warrants detailed this and other information that supported probable cause, including Nauta's encrypted messaging applications, which prosecutors believed he used to communicate with Trump and their mutual associates.

On June 24, 2022, the same day the Justice Department sent a subpoena to the Trump Organization and three days after Nauta testified to a grand jury, he started planning a secret trip to Mar-a-Lago for the next day. Nauta lied about the reason for the trip, claiming it was a family emergency.

Nauta lied about the reason for his trip to Mar-a-Lago. Instead of a family emergency, he met with de Oliveira and was seen on CCTV walking through tunnels before entering a storage area and gesturing in the direction of the cameras.

The FBI affidavits explained this, and despite Nauta's claim that warrants were obtained recklessly, the special counsel insists that the judges who approved the warrants had clear reasons to do so.

First, there were many documents with classified markings. Nauta was informed of the investigation in May 2022, and within six days of that, he removed about 60 boxes and continued to remove more days later.

Nauta argues that the warrant needed to show evidence that he himself violated Section 793, but a ruling from the 11th Circuit states that the critical element in a reasonable search is not suspecting the owner of a crime, but having reasonable cause to believe that the specific things to be searched for and seized are located on the property.

Smith stated that Nauta was misleading in his answers to investigators about moving the boxes. Nauta's challenge to the warrant lacks backing from any authority to support his claims of unconstitutionality.

The warrant can only be suppressed if it is so lacking in detail that the officers cannot reasonably assume it to be valid. This was not the case here. Despite Nauta's criticisms of the warrant, it was reasonable for the agents to rely on it.

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