Aileen Cannon Pulls Apart Trump Ally’s Fifth Amendment Claim

Judge Aileen Cannon has rejected claims by Donald Trump’s valet that prosecutors are punishing him for refusing to answer questions.

Lawyers for Walt Nauta had claimed in legal documents that Nauta had pleaded the 5th amendment when told to appear before a grand jury and prosecutors had indicted him as punishment.

The 5th amendment right to silence protects people’s right not to self-incriminate.

Trump is facing 40 federal charges over his handling of sensitive materials retrieved from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, after leaving the White House in January 2021. He is accused of obstructing efforts by federal authorities to return them. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Donald Trump and aide Walt Nauta at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. Nauta’s claim that prosecutors are punishing him for refusing to answer questions was rejected by Judge Aileen Cannon.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Newsweek has contacted Trump and Nauta’s attorneys via email for comment on Monday.

Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, a Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker, are accused of moving boxes of sensitive materials around Trump’s Florida home to prevent federal agents from finding them and conspiring to delete security footage that had been sought under a subpoena. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Saturday, Cannon, the judge overseeing the classified documents case, strongly rejected Nauta’s motion to dismiss, which was based on his claim of vindictive prosecution.

She wrote that Nauta never pleaded the 5th amendment. She agreed with special counsel Jack Smith’s opposition court filing, in which he wrote that Nauta’s claim of vindictive prosecution was unconvincing.

“Defendant Nauta did not expressly invoke his Fifth Amendment right. As explained in the Special Counsel’s Opposition, there is a difference between declining a target letter’s invitation to voluntarily appear before a grand jury—as happened here—and refusing to appear under official compulsion.

The grand jury is a group of ordinary people brought together to decide if charges should be brought against a suspect and in this case it was investigating Trump’s alleged hoarding of classified documents.

Quoting the case of Salinas v. Texas, Cannon noted: “It has long been settled that the [Fifth Amendment] privilege generally is not self-executing and that a witness who desires its protection must claim it.”

“Defendant Nauta argues that he was discriminatorily prosecuted for exercising his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination: that is, the Special Counsel indicted him for declining prosecutors’ invitation to appear before a grand jury.”

“To be sure, punishing a person for exercising his constitutional rights can constitute genuine animus,” she noted.

“Defendant Nauta’s argument that he was charged for refusing to cooperate also fails,” she added.

“Even if the Court were to accept that Defendant Nauta invoked his Fifth Amendment right, there is no evidence showing that Defendant Nauta’s exercise of his privilege against self-incrimination motivated the charges against him.”