WASHINGTON — Federal investigators contacted at least two aides to former President Donald Trump months before the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago resort and have sought to talk to them again in recent weeks, people familiar with the matter said, as the Justice Department examines possible obstruction of its efforts to retrieve hundreds of government and classified documents.
The aides, Walt Nauta and Will Russell, are witnesses in the Justice Department’s investigation into the handling of presidential and classified records taken from the White House but aren’t formally cooperating with the probe, the people said. Russell hasn’t personally spoken to investigators, who are communicating with his counsel.
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Nauta, a former military valet who went to work at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House, was seen on surveillance footage moving boxes from a storage room before and after investigators issued a subpoena in May seeking the documents’ return, the people said. Nauta told investigators that he did so at Trump’s request, one of the people said.
The federal interest in Russell hasn’t been previously reported. He served in the Trump White House, including as a coordinator of presidential travel, and went on to work for the former president in Florida after he left office. Russell had previously been subpoenaed in connection with the Justice Department’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. The FBI’s questioning of Nauta was earlier reported by the New York Times.
A spokesman for Mr. Trump declined to comment on the interest in Nauta and Russell while criticizing the Mar-a-Lago search as unwarranted. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.
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