by Emil Guillermo
The Waltine Nauta Scale? That’s part of the broader unofficial “loyalty scale” Asian Americans know all too well from U.S. history.
For some of us, it’s the difference between incarceration and freedom (Japanese Americans/WWII). For others, it’s the price of fighting in a racist Army to prove just how American we were (Filipino 1st and 2nd Regiments, the only non-citizen units in World War II).
Now in 2023, add Waltine Nauta as a new historical marker on the AAPI loyalty scale.
What would you do for…your country? Or Donald Trump?
Not break the law, I hope.
But first, as most of you are Asian Americans, I trust you completed the weekend assignment given by Prosecutor Jack Smith recently that all good Americans read the unsealed federal criminal indictment against the 45th president of the United States.
Do it. Here’s the link: washingtonpost.com/documents/e6276c02-dfd0-428d-9731-8594c1f7261d.pdf?itid=lk_inline_manual_4
It’s easier than reading a textbook in Organic Chemistry.
And the allegations are substantial, 37 felony charges connected to how classified documents were inappropriately handled, stored and moved – violations of the Espionage Act.
And then there are the charges of obstructing justice and making false statements. All of it is substantiated by evidence and photographs, with consequences of decades of prison time.
If a Martian looked over the document, he’d wonder why there wasn’t a better bathroom to store top-secret documents on Earth.
And then the said gender-neutral Martian would wonder how a man like Trump could have ever been seen as qualified to be president in 2016, let alone be the leading candidate for Republicans in 2024?
Trump is twice impeached, found liable in one sexual assault, and is now facing more than 70 state and federal criminal charges, with more charges in at least two other cases to come.
Is Trump qualified for the presidency? It doesn’t seem possible in any galaxy. Must be a case of affirmative action for whites?
And yet as MAGA types in Georgia proved this weekend, the level of indignation and repulsion is not as high as you’d expect, among Republicans
.Trump played victim and claimed the Deep State is weaponizing government. Trump said the Deep State was really the communists and fascists in America, painting it in clear “us-versus-them” terms.
“If you put me back in the White House, (the Democrats) reign will be over and America will be a free nation again,” Trump said to 15 seconds of solid applause.
Trump’s characterization of the threat to freedom is concerning, when it’s Trump himself, the indicted one who is the real threat.
Many AAPIs are in the U.S. because our families escaped autocracies. We fled dictatorships. Be it in China, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan. We know when freedoms are stripped. We escaped oppression and anti-democratic forces in our ancestral homes. I met a man from China the other day, who is awaiting his asylum interview and is so glad to be in America.
That’s why we’re all here.
We know the difference between autocracy and democracy. So should all Americans, if they stopped blindly cheering Trump enough to read the indictment.
I hope they do. But as I drove today in the red part of the blue state of California, I see someone hasn’t read the indictment and instead has spray painted a concrete overpass with the words, “Kill Dems.”
Funny, when I read it, I cheered justice, accountability, and the rule of law. But I admit as I held the document, I dwelled for more than a moment on that first page.
The stark print just stops you cold.
“United States of America” it reads, meaning all of us.
Then, “v. Donald J.Trump and Waltine Nauta.”
Nauta. One of us. The 40-year-old Guamanian native just put the AAPI in the evolving sordid political history of Trump. Who’s the ex-president’s new running mate? It’s not the former VP, Mike Pence who is making his own history by being the first veep to directly challenge his old boss ever. It’s not Nikki Haley or Vivek Ramaswamy, the latter so quick to pander to Trump’s base by promising to pardon Trump.
No, Trump’s new running mate is our AAPI man Nauta, Trump’s own personal valet and now newly minted co-conspirator.
More than anyone you can think of from Ivanka, Don Jr., Melania, Stormy Daniels or even E. Jean Carrol, Nauta will be the name that makes the most consequential pairing. The president and his loyal Guamanian charged with felonies against our democracy.
It struck me as an odd bit of negative diversity. The first AAPI on the pile of those who have sold their soul to Trump, including those who have actually served time, like attorney Michael D. Cohen and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.And then there are those who have done time only as key enablers like Rudy Giuliani. Or enablers who have been somewhat rehabilitated like Bill Barr.
And then there are those who were actually convicted but then pardoned by Trump, white men all. Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon.
Maybe that’s what Nauta is hoping for. Be loyal. Stick to Trump. Ride with the “winner” and get what the big boys get. A pardon.
It would be easier not to break the law in the first place. Nauta has reportedly told his family in Guam he did nothing wrong; he just did as he was told by Trump.
He carried Trump’s boxes out of a storage room, 64 at first, but then brought back only 30. Was he hiding the balance so they couldn’t be retrieved and returned to the archive?
Nauta’s is seen on video moving boxes. In an interview, he contradicts the video. The video doesn’t lie.
That’s loyalty to Trump. But was Nauta any worse than even a Trump supporter – AAPI or not – who still, on the weekend after the indictments were unsealed choose to cheer on Trump?
It pained me to see how Nauta was snarked at and made fun of, first in the pronunciation of his name in some form of the Anglicized “Nata,” which sounds like “nada” or “nothing,” which is how media folk seemed to patronize him in coverage I saw.
Nauta is Guamanian, a combination of the indigenous Chamorros and the first Filipinos who arrived in Guam in 1500 BC.
I didn’t reach Nauta back in October 2022 when his name was first revealed as a person of interest, but I have chosen to give every syllable their due.
Nata? Nowta? Go slow and it comes out Na-oO-tah. And then there’s the patronizing comments about his job. “Glorified pool boy” one national anchor called him, as if the standard reference as “Diet Coke Boy” wasn’t bad enough.
Nauta must be used to that kind of disrespect as a native Guamanian. By virtue of being a federal territory, you are a U.S. citizen. You can serve in the military, and according to the Census, Guamanians enlist in the U.S. military at a higher clip than any state in the union. One of every 20 of Guam’s more than 165,000 residents is a military veteran.
Nauta, who enlisted in the Navy as a teenager in 2001, rose the ranks to one of the prized jobs among the non-commissioned ranks, the naval steward spot in the White House. Sure, you’re in the mess detail, but you’re serving the commander-in-chief.
And that man, Trump, likes you.In some ways, Nauta is the ideal “body man,” or as I prefer, Trump adherent. Guamanians don’t have a vote in federal elections. They have a non-voting delegate in Congress. With no electoral college, they don’t count in presidential politics.
Which is why they have an urgency and purity of loyalty and service to prove their existence. They care and so they matter.
According to reports, Nauta was seen as genuinely caring for everyone he served. But of Trump, it’s been noted Nauta seemed to lack any ulterior motive to cash in on his closeness to the Donald.
He wasn’t a darn sycophant.
Former White House Attorney Ty Cobb, who has said the indictments, in terms of prison time and being convicted made Trump a “dead man,” talked about Nauta, the co-conspirator, in a completely opposite way.
“I’m shocked that he (Nauta) wasn’t adequately represented enough to be persuaded to abandon what is I think his perception that he is still serving his country. Because of his devotion to a man he looked up to in the job he was proud to have as an aide to the President of the United States,” Cobb said on CNN.
He pointed out that Nauta was neither a policy guy, nor an ideologue. He wasn’t a wheeler dealer. He was a man who was simply loyal to the boss he served.
And Nauta was genuinely nice.
“He made meals for people working around the White House, many of us who work late at night, he would check in on us to see if we wanted to anything to eat, he couldn’t be a kinder more thoughtful guy,” Cobb added.
Cobb called Nauta not having worked out an arrangement with the government a “tragedy of the highest proportion.”
In fact, it’s been reported that last fall, the prosecutors sought Nauta’s cooperation to turn on Trump. In one specific instance, Trump lawyers have charged that the Justice Department tried to coerce Nauta to cooperate by bringing up Nauta’s attorney Stanley Woodward’s pending application to be a judge in Washington, DC.
None of Trump’s attorneys or Nauta’s attorney acted in Nauta’s best interest. The indictment says Nauta moved boxes at least five times. That he loaded them up on a plane. That he discovered a spilled box with top secret documents of the U.S.’s top five allies. And he took a picture of the spilled box and shared it.
That’s a serious felony allegation.
At that point, I wish someone could have laid out Nauta’s option to hire a non-Trump connected attorney so that Nauta could act in his own interest, and to his country, and not to Trump.
It’s in Trump’s best interest to control Nauta until he no longer needs him. As Trump’s co-conspirator, Nauta is ideal. He always feels beholden. Has no interest in power, only in expressing his loyalty. And that may be the only thing that matters to Trump.
There’s still time to flip.
Though it may be harder than one thinks when he’s weighted down by that colonial mindset of service and loyalty.
Nauta’s has that look of a retired enlisted Navy man willing to go down with the ship.
I say Flip Waltine Flip. Save your hide, and America.
EMIL GUILLERMO is a journalist and commentator, who worked in Hawaii and was a former host of NPR’s “All Things Considered” in Washington, DC. He will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” his AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.
by Emil Guillermo