A new report reveals Trump's social media director is one of the most powerful people in White House

How Dan Scavino, the president's senior advisor for digital strategy, has been influential in shaping public policy

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published May 17, 2019 8:44AM (EDT)

Director of Social Media Dan Scavino and President Donald Trump on board Air Force One. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Director of Social Media Dan Scavino and President Donald Trump on board Air Force One. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

A new report reveals the outsized role that Dan Scavino, President Donald Trump's senior advisor for digital strategy, has played in shaping public policy in addition to online strategy from within the White House.

Scavino has consulted Trump on issues ranging from America's withdrawal from Syria and the administration's anti-immigrant policies to the president's reaction to the National Football League (NFL) protests, according to Politico. As Trump himself told the news outlet, Scavino is instrumental not only in helping the president figure out how to post tweets but also in crafting his overall image on social media.

"Oftentimes, I’ll go through Dan. You know, I’ll talk it over. And he can really be a very good sounding board," Trump told Politico. "A lot of common sense. He’s got a good grasp."

The president also drew a contrast between his 2016 social media strategy and that of his rival, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, arguing he had succeeded in part because Scavino alone was more effective than Clinton's entire team at effectively mobilizing supporters online.

"When I was running, I knew that Hillary had 28 people, and I had Dan . . . They used to say that we ran an unsophisticated campaign,"Trump told Politico. "And after we won, they said we ran one of the most sophisticated campaigns ever,"

Politico noted that Scavino's critics accuse him of being a "yes" man, who enables the president's worst impulses. However, even they acknowledge that Scavino has had an impressive ability to remain a part of Trump's inner circle, whereas dozens of other formerly close aides have come and gone. Indeed, insiders have said Trump speaks to Scavino more often than anyone — except for his own family.

The report also included an anecdote about how, when a group of lawmakers visited Trump in the White House to express concerns over his decision to withdraw troops from Syria, Trump asked for Scavino to enter the room and then had him explain the positive reception his policy had received on social media. Scavino has also accompanied the president during foreign trips and been present during important meetings on policy, even though his background is not in public policy. He has known the president since his teenage days, when he served as the Trump's golf caddie.

Trump biographer Tim O'Brien characterized Scavino's influence as one in which he provides the president with the kind of data that he's interested in — but with one caveat.

"It’s Trumpian data, which means it’s a little bit of cotton candy. And it’s not grounded in reality," O'Brien told Politico. "Politicians have been using polls for decades to gauge policies, but Twitter followers have nothing at all to do with whether his Syria policy is popular."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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