Trump’s Mar-a-Lago co-defendant has a #MeToo problem

Even astute news consumers could be forgiven for missing the recent story about sexual abuse allegations against Walt Nauta, the “body man” for Donald Trump. Nauta has been indicted by the Justice Department of conspiring with Trump in the theft of classified documents from the U.S. government. While reporting on the abuse allegations by Roger Sollenberger of the Daily Beast is thorough and alarming, it was published late Friday, timing which tends to bury all but the most incendiary news stories. But it also got overlooked for the most damning of reasons: It’s not surprising.

Most people at this point understand that Trump, whose guilt in the sexual assault of E. Jean Carroll has been upheld twice by jury verdicts, loves to surround himself with other men who are believed to be abusive towards women. The list of Trump associates who have been accused of sexual abuse or domestic violence is far too long to recount here, even if you skip the Jeffrey Epstein links.

Still, here’s a small sampling: His former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is being sued by a former aide who is accusing him of coerced sexual intercourse. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has also accused Giuliani of groping her. Vince McMahon, Trump’s close friend and husband to a former Trump Cabinet member, is facing new allegations of rape and sex trafficking. Two ex-wives of White House aide Rob Porter claimed he beat them, and Trump defended him vigorously in response. Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and rallied to his side when a woman stepped forward with attempted rape allegations against the justice. Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and close advisor Steve Bannon faced accusations of domestic violence, reportedly winning him the approving nickname “Bam Bam” from Trump. Trump aide Corey Lewandowski was accused of sexual assault in 2017, and only ended up being one of Trump’s most consistent allies as a result. 

History suggests that a reliable way for a man to get Trump’s public praise is to be accused of violence against women. That was evident in the 2022 midterm elections when Republican Charles Herbster faced allegations of sexual violence from 8 women when he ran in Nebraska’s GOP gubernatorial primary. Trump already backed Herbster in the primary but went all-in after the women told their story, dramatically escalating his support for Herbster. It didn’t work, and Herbster lost his race. But the message was sent: There is nothing Trump loves more than a man who is alleged to be a sexual predator and/or a wife-beater. 

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Nauta’s role in Trump’s sprawling crime syndicate has always been something of a mystery. It seemed he had a successful Navy career, but gave it all up to follow Trump around Mar-a-Lago, a demeaning job that means inhaling ketchup-and-butt stank all day long. Then, according to indictments filed by special prosecutor Jack Smith, Trump pushed Nauta to repeatedly violate the Espionage Act by telling Nauta to hide stolen classified documents from federal authorities. When he was charged with these serious crimes, many observers expected Nauta to save himself by testifying against Trump. Instead, he’s stuck by Trump, even though the orange goblin has never hesitated to throw his acolytes under the bus. 

He’s stuck by Trump, even though the orange goblin has never hesitated to throw his acolytes under the bus. 

The details of these new allegations shed some light, however, on why Nauta might have this irrational attachment to Trump. As Sollenberger reports, Nauta had stayed on at the White House as a member of the Navy for months after Trump left office. But in the spring of 2021, “Navy officials had escorted him off White House grounds, reassigned him to a new post, and docked his White House security clearance in response to accusations of fraternization, adultery, harassment, and other inappropriate sexual conduct, including ‘revenge porn.'”

Three female servicemembers are accusing Nauta of adulterous and inappropriate relationships with lower-ranking personnel. He then became abusive with his mistresses, the servicemembers allege, including taking naked photos of them and threatening to release them as a form of control. It appears Nauta was facing serious and likely ruinous disciplinary action from the Navy. He left and went to work for Trump at Mar-a-Lago instead. 

Trump certainly prefers underlings in precarious positions, so he can force them into risky choices by threatening to expose them if they don’t do what he says. But, as with all the abusive, misogynist men that Trump surrounds himself with, there’s a real “birds of feather” situation going on. It’s a myth that men who mistreat women are secretive and ashamed of themselves. In reality, while they do avoid saying things publicly that can be used against them in court, such men tend to feel proud of themselves. They seek other terrible men out, so they can affirm each other in the belief that nothing is more manly and impressive than inflicting suffering on someone smaller and less powerful than yourself. 

Trump’s behavior throughout the two E. Jean Carroll trials was a stark reminder that what your typical sexual assailant feels is not shame, but pride. He raged constantly online and offline. He asserted that rape has been a privilege for successful men for “millions of years,” using the word “fortunately” to describe that situation. On CNN, he blamed Carroll for the assault, whining, “what kind of a woman meets somebody” and allows herself to be alone with him “within minutes.” Sure, he denied the attack — most abusers do, in order to avoid legal consequences — but he was practically vibrating with his desire to brag as loudly as he could about it. 

After a jury awarded Carroll $83 million in the second trial, she and her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, went to the press to spill even more details about Trump’s grotesque behavior. Kaplan told a story about Trump calling her an infamously misogynist slur during a deposition:

We come in the room and I say, ‘I’m done asking questions’ and immediately I hear from the other side, “Off the record. Off the record. Off the record.” So they must have planned it. And he looks at me from across the table and he says, “See you next Tuesday.”

This story is so perfect because it encapsulates the gulf in worldviews between a sexually abusive misogynist and everyone else. To normal people, calling a woman a “c—t” in this way isn’t just childish. It also proves Kaplan’s point: Trump is an insecure bully who lashes out at women who challenge him. (According to Carroll’s testimony, the assault happened shortly after Trump got angry because she made a harmless joke about him wearing lingerie.) Trump clearly thought his sophomoric slur was awesome, thus the enormous pomp and ceremony in rolling it out. His lawyers, who know flattering his delusional ego is what gets them paid, played along.

This points to why misogynists and abusers seek each other out, beyond just having shared interests. They prop each other up in the gross belief that it’s really cool to be a man who hurts women. In defending each other, they create a politically powerful solidarity. Untold numbers of men who have gone MAGA have done so mainly because they hate women. They love the validation of having leadership who agrees with their pro-violence-against-women stance. They also recognize that they have more power together than they would if they stood alone. 

Depressing stuff, but the good news is that, as I wrote last week, women also have a right to vote. Polling shows that more women than ever are drawing connections between abortion bans, gendered violence, the MAGA movement, and stupid sexism like the right’s Taylor Swift bashing. The people who would hit us, rape us, take away our rights, and force us into subservience are united under the MAGA banner. Women must stick together to defend ourselves. 

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