Emil Guillermo: Walt Nauta, native of Guam, and the legacy of colonization

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The AAPI person of the moment, Waltine “Walt” Nauta, had his day in court Thursday, and he wasn’t really lawyered up.

And that’s why even though his name is emblazoned on page one of the historic first federal criminal prosecution of a former president, Nauta may as well be “nada.”

I prefer to give him the respect of every vowel. That’s no silent “U.” I sound it out, “Na-oo-ta,” which only sounds like “nowta” when you’re saying it at Anglicized speed.

The case involving the mishandling of boxes of classified top-secret documents and plotting with his former boss to hide them at Mar-a-Lago is so serious that both men could be sent to prison for a long, long time.

I just have a feeling when all is said and done, Nauta will be serving more time for this than his boss ever will.

And that would be criminal.

Maybe I feel for Nauta because he looks like me, only without hair. Or maybe it’s because in my media career, I’ve lived in ten different cities and know what it’s like to pack and move boxes.

But am I the only one asking, “Who is Nauta’s body man?”

By that, I mean, who really cares about Walt Nauta?

That he’s Guamanian may be all you really need to know. If you know the history of Guam and the indigenous Chamorros, this is what always happens. It explains my fear that Walt Nauta is going to get the worst of it.

Unless he wises up.

But in many ways, he can’t help it.

It’s baked in the system when you’re from Guam, where a colonial mentality has lingered since 1898.

That’s when after 300 or so years of Spanish rule, the U.S. got Guam after the Spanish American War, almost as an afterthought.

That’s how it’s connected to our nation. It’s next to the Northern Mariana Islands but it’s a separate territory. It’s also on the United Nations list of 17 non-self-governing territories, that ought to be independent but isn’t.

Guam’s role is to exist as the forever American colony, its people official second-class citizens of a great democracy.

As such, Guamanians have a Congressional representative who gets to sit in the People's House but doesn’t get to vote. In fact, no Guamanian has a vote for president.

Maybe that’s why Donald Trump loves Nauta so much. He’s in that personal safe zone. Undocumented, documented? Nauta’s got all the documents he can get, and he’s still less than whole.

It’s a status that makes him constantly forced to prove his worthiness.

Since their colonization began, Guamanians have pushed for full rights as citizens, even independence, just not very hard. Imagine Puerto Rico, just farther away on the other side of the world, less loud and more forgotten.

The way out of the colonial mindset has been to trade it for a military mindset, and Guamanians have enlisted in the Navy in great numbers.

That’s what Nauta did as a teenager. And his service brought him from the mess hall in the White House, to serving the president as a steward, to retiring from the Navy and becoming Trump’s private valet at a reported $135,000 a year.

At age 40, Nauta’s a modern Guamanian success story, living life stateside. He was an AAPI in the White House who served the president of the United States in public and private life.

And he’s done it all by constantly proving his worthiness and showing that selfless loyalty to his boss, the former commander-in-chief.

So if “dance with the one who brung ya” is a political eternal verity, Nauta’s not quitting Trump, probably ever. The idea of a Nauta flip? Less and less likely as more time passes. He’s had several chances already.

And now that we know what the government has on him, Nauta seems to have convinced himself the Trump train may be the only way out.

In the unsealed affidavit this week, Nauta is shown in security camera footage carrying three boxes inside Mar-a-Lago on May 24. Then two days later, when interviewed by the FBI, he is alleged to have denied knowing anything about the boxes.

Four days after the interview, Nauta is seen on the surveillance footage moving fifty boxes out of a storage room.

Then on June 2, footage shows Nauta moved 25 to 30 boxes back to the storage room. On Trump's command?

The arithmetic is damning.


Nauta was in Miami on Thursday--without Trump and his entourage--appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres.

Nauta spoke just once, according to the Washington Post. When the judge asked if he had reviewed the charges against him, Nauta simply answered, “Yes, your honor.”

And that was it.

The rest was handled by his D.C. based Trump-paid lawyer, Stan Woodward, who entered Nauta’s not guilty plea. And then there was his new local lawyer, Sasha Dadan, a former public defender and political hopeful, with no national security experience.

As I said, Nauta is not exactly lawyered up. The three of them in the courtroom sketch artist’s account made them look hopeless.

And that’s the disappointment.

You’ll recall, Nauta was there last month, as both co-defendant and Trump valet.

He was a better valet than co-defendant.

Trump entered a not guilty plea, but Nauta stood there as if hung out to dry.

The valet was not a priority. No one bothered to get him a local lawyer.

This week, he had one, but lawyered up? More like he’s lawyered down.

I want to see Trump held accountable like most Americans do. He is not above the law. But he may be above a Guamanian who is his personal valet and who still serves at his pleasure. Trump has all the power. Nauta has none. Or if he does, he isn't exercising it.

With the counsel he has, Nauta stands alone, his colonial mentality so hard wired that he seems hell bent on leaving himself no other option but to be loyal to a fault.

That's how the legacy of colonization works.

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NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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