The White House social media director is the president’s alter ego, mini-me, and id on Twitter.
The White House is brimming with aides, lawyers, and communications gurus who are begging President Donald Trump to stop tweeting. The lone exception is Dan Scavino, the president’s former golf caddy who now oversees the White House’s messaging on social media.
Scavino is in many ways the president’s mini-me, a man whose bombast, impulse control, and instinct for a good punch match those of his boss.
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After Trump last weekend blasted London Mayor Sadiq Khan after a terror attack that killed eight people, Scavino posted a message citing Khan’s own 2016 criticism of Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims and terrorism—complete with a Trumpian, all-caps “WAKE UP!!!!”
And like his boss, Scavino has ignored warnings from high-level White House officials to tone down his tweets. Scavino was reprimanded on Friday for violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits senior executive branch officials from using their authority to interfere with elections, by calling in April for the ouster of Michigan Republican Justin Amash.
Steve Schmidt, a former George W. Bush administration official who served as campaign manager for John McCain in 2008, said Scavino’s remarks demonstrated “no sense of probity or dignity.”
But Scavino’s purpose in the White House is to give Trump an outlet, not to lend him restraint. When the president goes quiet, as he did during and shortly after the testimony of fired FBI director James Comey, Scavino ensures there is a field marshal leading the pro-Trump Twitter army online. “Sorry Dems- nothing here,” he tweeted on his own accountas Comey’s testimony got underway before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. “POTUS or team NEVER asked to stop election investigation.”
Scavino, whose title is director of social media, is omnipresent in the West Wing, constantly recording content for online videos. He has said that he often taps out tweets for the president’s account as Trump dictates them, and he has a knack for mimicking his boss on Twitter. “Scavino channels Trump, not the other way around,” said a senior White House aide.
“Dan Scavino is a true team player and an invaluable asset. He is a person who works incredibly hard, is totally selfless and extremely humble,” said White House strategic communications manager Hope Hicks. “Dan’s contributions to both the campaign and now the White House are immeasurable and beyond that, he is a really wonderful person.”
Scavino first connected with Trump decades ago after caddying for him at a Westchester golf club. He’s now one of the president’s most loyal lieutenants, carrying on his tweeting even as other aides increasingly resist stepping up to spin the latest controversies.
After several Republican congressmen refused to back the initial version of an Obamacare repeal bill, Scavino in early April launched the broadside against Amash, urging voters to “defeat him in primary,” that resulted in a warning from the Office of Special Counsel.
He’s served as the president’s alter ego to congratulate Fox News hosts on their successes, lambast journalists from other networks, or bestow derogatory monikers on the president’s critics.
He has frequently derided Bill Kristol, a frequent Trump critic and the editor emeritus of the conservative Weekly Standard, as #LoserBilly. Former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice is “Lyin’ Leakin’ Susan Rice.”
“Congratulations to Lyin’ Leakin’ Susan Rice on receiving FOUR PINOCCHIOS from the Washington Post,” Scavino wrote in early April regarding Rice’s claim that the Obama administration was able to force the removal of chemical weapons from Syria.
After CNN host Anderson Cooper said he was disgusted by the comedienne Kathy Griffin’s decision to conduct a mock beheading of Trump, Scavino tweeted, “If you are so appalled, you would make it clear to everyone that you will never have that piece of trash (@kathygriffin) on your show again.”
That has endeared him to the president, who ensconced him in the West Wing just a few doors down from chief strategist Steve Bannon. Scavino was among the staffers Trump invited to join him at the Vatican to meet the Pope when he visited in May—even though Scavino tweeted sarcastically during the 2016 campaign about the Vatican being surrounded by walls after Francis criticized Trump’s plan to build a border wall with Mexico.
After caddying from Trump’s group at what was then the Briar Hall Country Club as a college freshman, Trump made Scavino the general manager of the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, New York after he purchased the property. His improbable rise made him one of Westchester magazine’s “inspiring tales of unexpected success” long before he landed at the White House.
Throughout the campaign, Scavino was a constant presence at Trump’s side, traveling with him to rallies, debates, and other stops. He became known as the keeper of Trump’s social media profile, overseeing his Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.
Scavino is among the few Trump originalists, along with strategic communications director Hope Hicks and director of Oval Office operations Keith Schiller, who accompanied the president from his campaign launch in June of 2015 all the way to his election in November of 2016 – despite multiple management changes and high turnover. After Paul Manafort was brought in to run the campaign and Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was ousted, it was widely speculated that Scavino would be pushed aside or let go.
He came under fire after tweeting a picture of Hillary Clinton next to a Star of David-shaped figure with the words enclosed; “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” In the background was a sea of cash, and critics blasted the image as anti-Semitic. Scavino later tweeted, “For the MSM to suggest that I am antisemite is AWFUL. I proudly celebrate holidays w/ my wife’s amazing Jewish family for the past 16 years.”
One senior White House aide said the continuing Twitter controversies in which the White House finds itself embroiled are a permanent feature of the landscape in the Trump era. “I don’t blame the president for that, I blame everybody else around him. Factor it into your jobs.”
Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report.