Shortly after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw American troops from Syria last December, a group of legislators went to the White House to dissuade him from the idea, which critics described as threat to national security.
Trump responded by calling the man who oversees his Twitter account.
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"Get Dan Scavino here," Trump said in the middle of the meeting earlier this year. While walking, a man of about forty years with brown hair cut short.
"Tell them how popular my policy is," Trump told Scavino, who, according to two people familiar with the trade, told lawmakers the positive reaction he'd had on the media as a result of Trump's decision in Syria.
The sudden pivot of geostrategy to retweets and tastes surprised legislators. It was a remarkable moment, given that Scavino recently ran the Trump Golf Club. But for Scavino himself, it was only another day of work.
While there remains little allies in the West Wing, Trump frequently relies on his unpretentious guru for social media to assert his opinion on how his most Sensitive will be perceived, according to interviews with more than twenty current and former officials of the White House, and other relatives. to the president.
Scavino met Trump as a 16-year-old cadet and spent much of his adult life with him. Today, he is sitting a few steps from the Oval Office and is present at most meetings, patting his laptop in the background. He joined Trump on trips to Saudi Arabia, Argentina and other distant destinations.
And officials say he talks to the president more than anyone else, aside from Trump's family members, playing ping pong in and out of the oval sometimes more than half a dozen times a year. day. Regulars who want to read about Trump's atmosphere often consult Scavino, who can be trusted.
For admirers, Scavino is a social media pioneer who refines Trump's critical connection with his followers. For critics, he is a man of confidence and a facilitator who does not have work at the White House. As he did at the meeting on Syria, Scavino routinely provides explanations or justifications to the president's most controversial political guidelines, ranging from his attacks on NFL players to his hard line on the 39 – Immigration – steps that Scavino told the president to excite #MAGA warriors on Twitter.
Everyone agrees that Scavino is a survivor – a man who became one of Trump's closest confidants in a White House where almost all of Trump's staff left.
As Trump embarks on his re-election campaign, Scavino is the last of the four totally trustworthy insiders currently at his side. His former bodyguard and acolyte Keith Schiller left; Director of Communications Hope Hicks; and body man John McEntee.
But most important is his role as guardian of Trump's explosive Twitter feed, which brings together supporters of the president and drives Washington's daily news cycles.
In an interview with POLITICO, Trump acknowledged that Scavino plays a key role in defining the tweets he can send by the dozens every day.
"Often, I will go through Dan," said Trump. "You know, I'll talk about it. And it can really be a very good advice. A lot of common sense. He has a good understanding. "
He also called Scavino "a leader in social media" as indispensable in the 2016 campaign and presented it as a major asset for 2020.
"When I was running, I knew Hillary had 28 people – and I had Dan. … They used to say that we had run an unsophisticated campaign. And after winning, they said we had launched one of the most sophisticated campaigns of all time, "Trump said.
Scavino occupies what would be a second-level job in any other administration. But in the world of Trump, he comes with the maximum salary of $ 179,700 to the White House, the coveted assistant of the status of president and, since last month, an improved title: senior advisor for the digital strategy.
Since taking office, the president has reviewed five communications directors, including former Fox News executive Bill Shine, and has finally concluded that he does not need them, according to his associates. He has himself – and Scavino.
"It's essentially the White House's communications department," said Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist.
Scavino acts primarily as a validator of Trump – adopting what a leader has called a "let Trump be trump" approach that now defines a White House from which a series of officials who sought to control Trump were expelled . A former White House official joked that he's creating a "safe space" around the president.
Trump's critics fear that Scavino's positive reinforcement will not serve the president to serve the president and that it is dangerous to use social media metrics to influence the heavy political decisions.
Trump "has this interest in the data, but it's Trumpian data, which means it's a bit of cotton candy and they're not grounded in reality," he said. Trump's biographer, Tim O'Brien. "Politicians have been using polls for decades to gauge their policies, but Twitter followers have no idea if his policies against Syria are popular." (Trump eventually went back on his plans to pull all US troops out of Syria.The administration decided to leave 400 troops in the country.)
Some who have closely watched Scavino's interactions with the president say that he constantly reassures Trump and regales points of data about his love. One person said he saw Scavino reject the series of books on the White House that exasperated the president, including Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury."
"This is what openly announces to the president," said a former White House official. Does he really feel like that?
Yet it is the validation of the president by Scavino that gives him influence. During his frequent visits to the Oval Office, his conversations with the President on Air Force One or his personal contacts in his private study, Trump asked Scavino to share his comments on many topics. Popular and what he thinks of the potential administration hired, said helpers.
In the interview with POLITICO, Trump played down his influence on politics. "I do not think Dan wants to be too involved in politics," he said.
It was a remarkable climb for the New York native who met Trump as a teenage cadet and became general manager of the Trump Golf Club in Westchester County, NY, before volunteering for his 2016 campaign.
The way Trump's tweets are made is a well-kept secret inside the White House. But White House officials and even the president himself recognize that Scavino's fingerprints are everywhere in Trump's thread.
When asked directly if Scavino helped him write his tweets, Trump replied, "I will usually do it myself," but admitted that his help helped shape his missives "on occasion." ".
Scavino – who regularly watches Reddit, with special attention to the pro-Trump / r / The_Donald channel – has helped create some of Trump's most memorable moments on social media.
It's Scavino who designed the "Game of Thrones" motif that has appeared several times in White House messages in recent months, including a presidential tweet aimed at Iran. last fall which included a picture of Trump with the words "sanctions are coming."
He also worked with Trump to prepare one of the president's first public responses to the publication of Special Advocate Robert Mueller's report, according to two administration officials. April 18 tweetMinutes after Attorney General Bill Barr closed his press conference on the report, he said: "No collusion. No obstruction. For enemies and radical left democrats – Game Over. "
This tweet also borrowed his font from the hit HBO series. It does not matter that the network objected in a statement last November that it "would prefer that our brand is not diverted for political purposes."
White House officials have for weeks repeated the message "game over", insisting that it's time for Democrats and the media to move on.
"He has the gift of formulating things in ways that generate new cycles," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "Businesses pay people millions of dollars to break into social media like this."
While Trump dictated many of his tweets to Scavino, who was publishing them on his behalf, the president is increasingly accustomed to tweeting unilaterally from his own account. When he dictates his tweets to Scavino, the president explains precisely how they should be written, specifying the capitalization and punctuation, said White House officials. The result is a sometimes confusing presidential style guide in which the first letter of words like "collusion" and "witch hunt" is almost always capitalized.
The White House has created a separate review process for tweets that do not come from Trump or Scavino. Staff members tweet, circulate it for comment, and send it to Scavino, who sometimes "cheats" before getting approval from the president, according to a former White House official. Scavino has spent so much time with the President that he is an expert imitator of Trump's speech patterns and predilections.
"It's better than anyone to channel Trump," said another former White House official. (Sometimes, tweets that are deemed too hot, even for Trump's feed, are posted to Scavino's personal account.)
The pressure of being Trump's messenger can sometimes be intense. Last March, Trump dictated a tweet to Scavino, saying HR McMaster, then national security advisor, was leaving the White House. But before sending it, Scavino went out of his way to make sure his associates knew the tweet was imminent, according to a former White House official.
At the beginning of Trump's presidency, White House officials struggled to contain his quick tweeting. Scavino would present to Trump several draft tweets from which to choose each morning, which would allow Trump "a release valve," according to a person close to the president. The president circled the tweets that he liked, and Scavino would send those he had chosen.
This installation did not last long, said this person. Trump "did not feel the real euphoria of typing the tweet itself … and then within 15 seconds of it exploding on one of the cable shows."
Scavino has close ties with Trump and many senior White House officials by keeping a low profile and guarding himself – remaining well above the White House's bashing and mistrust. A former White House official called him the "least jazzy person" of Trump's orbit. Most often, Scavino is in his office on his laptop with headphones in his ears, White House officials said.
Scavino is also admired for his aversion to talking to reporters. He declined the interview requests for this story.
"This is someone whose president knows that he has no personal motivation. He does not do it for himself, "said Jared Kushner, president's son-in-law and senior advisor.
Still, Scavino has developed a reputation among Trump supporters online, especially in the pro-Trump corners of Reddit, where his tweets and videos often fire up.
Scavino's Twitter account, which has more than 368,000 subscribers, has become a favorite spot for Scavino's many behind-the-scenes videos and photos on his journeys with Trump, who often offer him a better perspective than the journalists.
His personal Twitter feed also displays a combative and populist sensibility that is almost identical to Trump's. When the president clashed with hosts MSNBC's Scarborough Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in 2017, Scavino tweeted, "#DumbAsARockMika and her lover #JealousJoe are lost, confused, and saddened since @POTUS @realDonaldTrump has stopped responding! Unhinged. "
He has also unwittingly denounced his inexperience in politics and the government, including in a tweet of 2017 on a possible visit of Trump in "Palestine".
In his interview with POLITICO, Trump dismissed persistent rumors that Scavino could leave the White House.
"I hope that it will remain another six years and maybe four more after, then four more after," Trump said, adding that he was joking about extending his mandate to make the crazy media.
Trump often asks Scavino to inform his visitors of the number of subscribers he has on social networks – insisting that his help has followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Facebook. other platforms, instead of just Twitter, where the former president Barack Obama has 60 million supporters over 45 million.
"How many people do I have?" Asked Trump at Scavino during the meeting with the legislature that was held in Syria earlier this year, citing the number of its followers.
According to Aides, Trump regularly complains of losing subscribers as part of what he suspects to be politically motivated Conservative censorship – but that Twitter attributes to a recent crackdown on spam accounts.
Trump confronted Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about it at a meeting of the Oval Office last month. Dan Scavino was sitting next to Dorsey.