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HomeUncategorizedRepublicans, take note: Walt Nauta's tragic tale shows how loyalty to Trump...

Republicans, take note: Walt Nauta’s tragic tale shows how loyalty to Trump ends in sorrow

Until last week, Walt Nauta was a name few people outside Donald Trump’s inner circle had ever heard. Nauta met Trump in the White House, where Nauta, an enlisted service member in the Navy at the time, worked as a military valet. He apparently bonded with Trump and kept working for the twice-impeached former president after voters sent him packing to Mar-a-Lago. Nauta is visible as an anonymous presence in many photos of Trump, straightening Trump’s collar or handing Trump his phone in between holes on the golf course. 

Now, of course, Nauta is famous as an indicted co-conspirator, the second defendant in the classified documents case unveiled by Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith on Friday. Trump was hit with 37 felony counts in the indictment, related to illegally retaining classified documents and obstructing efforts by the FBI to get them back. Nauta, who was often tasked with moving boxes around Mar-a-Lago at Trump’s beck and call, faces six criminal charges for his role in the alleged conspiracy. 

Now we can add Nauta’s name to the seemingly endless list of people who have learned a hard lesson: Loyalty to Donald Trump is a bad idea, and nearly certain to blow up in your face sooner or later. 

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It’s bizarre that so many people have to learn this lesson in the first place, since it should be obvious. Standing by Trump means sacrificing one’s personal dignity, courting career ruin and, in many cases, risking prison or even death. Ask former Vice President Mike Pence, who stood by Trump throughout every embarrassing presidential scandal. His reward for this loyalty? Trump sent a murderous mob after him on Jan. 6, 2021, and later insisted he was right to egg them on as they chanted, “Hang Mike Pence.” 

Ask the more than 1,000 members of the Jan. 6 mob who have since been arrested and charged with crimes ranging from trespassing to seditious conspiracy. Many of them will go to jail for trying to overturn an election for Trump, some of them for many years. Yes, Trump has responded to this by portraying the insurrectionists as patriots and heroes, but let’s face it: That’s basically for his own self-aggrandizement, and does little or nothing to relieve the legal consequences they are now facing.  

Or ask former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who nearly died from a case of COVID-19 he very likely contracted from Donald Trump. Trump called Christie in the hospital, but not to apologize or wish him well. No, he wanted Christie not to tell anyone that he’d probably gotten the virus from Trump. 

Such is the pattern throughout Trump’s life. He expects others to do whatever it takes to protect him, and potentially sacrifice everything for him if necessary. In return, he gives them nothing. He’s a pure vampire, who will kick your corpse to the curb when he’s done sucking you dry. This is all entirely predictable, and yet one person after another sticks by Trump, believing that somehow, it will be different for them. 

Last week offered a perfect illustration of Trump’s baffling power to convince others to show him loyalty he will never return. Republican politicians competed to offer the most debased defense of a man who would not piss on a single one of them if they were on fire. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri both put on an impressive display of feigned umbrage, flatly ignoring how bad Trump made both of them look when they were running for their lives from the Jan. 6 rioters. 

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Perhaps the most hilariously obsequious response came from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is supposedly running against Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination. He protested on Twitter: “Why so zealous in pursuing Trump yet so passive about Hillary or Hunter?” DeSantis is not a stupid. He knows the answer is “because Trump committed a bunch of serious crimes” and also that Hunter Biden remains under investigation, although he’s accused of extremely minor transgressions in comparison. But DeSantis will embarrass himself by pretending to be a dumbass, all to please a man who spends inordinate amounts of time making up juvenile nicknames for him, like “Meatball Ron.” 

Ron DeSantis offers an outstanding case study in the delusion that causes Republicans to keep betting on Trump, even as he spits in their faces. How many voters prefer the bootlicker to the guy wearing the boots?

DeSantis offers an outstanding case study in the delusion that causes Republicans to keep betting on Trump, even as he spits in their faces. DeSantis says this stuff because he knows he can’t win the GOP nomination if he totally alienates the Trump base. But how many voters are likely to prefer the bootlicker to the guy wearing the boots? That goes double for the power-worshipping authoritarians that make up the GOP’s primary voting base. 

It’s true that Trump is out there defending Nauta, calling him a “wonderful man” and denouncing the indictment. But of course he doesn’t really care about Nauta. He has to say that stuff to convince his valet not to flip on him, knowing that it’s very likely prosecutors will offer Nauta some leniency in exchange for evidence against his boss. But when and if Trump decides it benefits him to throw Nauta under the bus, he’ll do it without a second thought. 

One of the main reasons Republicans show loyalty to Trump, of course, is old-fashioned cowardice. They know that criticizing him or refusing to do his bidding risks drawing his public ire, which in turn means the MAGA base will turn against them. But they’re overrating the degree of safety provided by this public deference to Trump. That won’t keep him from demanding that they commit crimes for him, as many Republican officials around the country learned when they got post-election phone calls insisting that they needed to falsify vote totals on his behalf. It won’t even keep him from cavalierly risking their lives. Plenty of Republicans in Congress were eager to do everything they could to sabotage the 2020 election, and were rewarded for their loyalty by being forced to hide from the Capitol rioters on Jan. 6. 

Nauta’s fate offers one more reminder of the perils that come with holding Trump close. If Nauta had reached out to the FBI himself and turned over all the evidence against Trump as soon as he understood what was going on, he wouldn’t be in this situation right now. Trump has an ability to convince people that supporting him will bring them power, or at least safety. But time and again, it turns out that the opposite is true: Keeping your distance from Trump means you remain outside the blast radius when his crimes and schemes inevitably blow up. 

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