WASHINGTON — Daniel Scavino Jr., who served as former president Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff, was revealed late Friday to be the person who had tried, and failed, to win a judge’s permission to fight a subpoena for his phone records in the Jan. 6 investigation using a pseudonym.
The legal mystery began on Jan. 5 this year, when a person only identified as “Plaintiff” filed a lawsuit contesting a subpoena issued to Verizon Communications by the special congressional committee probing the Capitol insurrection. Normally, litigants can only proceed anonymously with a judge’s permission, and the anonymous plaintiff’s lawyer filed that request a few weeks later. On Jan. 19, US District Chief Judge Beryl Howell said no, and Scavino refiled the complaint under his name in the same case on Friday.
Scavino has been one of Trump’s closest allies for years, dating back to his time as his golf caddy. He was one of the few aides to stay with Trump from the 2016 campaign through the entirety of the presidency. He was a constant presence at Trump's side during public events, and behind the scenes on the president's Twitter account as the official director of social media.
Scavino and his attorney had argued that his identity was “wholly irrelevant” for a judge to decide whether the committee’s subpoena was lawful. They argued that revealing his identity could subject him to “retaliation” by the committee and public criticism.
Howell was unconvinced that these were good enough reasons to carve out an exception to the general principle that court proceedings — including the identities of litigants — should be accessible to the public. She pointed out that even though the subpoena had been issued to Verizon, and not Scavino, “the substance of this lawsuit is plainly to challenge the investigative scope and purposes of the Select Committee.” When someone sues the government, the judge wrote, it was “well-settled” that there was an even greater public interest.
Scavino joins a handful of other individuals in Trump’s orbit, along with the former president himself, who have gone to court to try to contest the committee’s efforts to gather information about their communications before, during, and after the attack on the Capitol. Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court refused Trump’s last-ditch effort to intervene and stop the National Archives from turning over a collection of nearly 800 pages of documents that the former president had argued should be shielded by executive privilege; President Joe Biden had declined to support that position, and Trump lost challenges to that in the lower courts.
On Thursday, a federal judge denied a request by Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich to issue an injunction that would force the committee to destroy bank records it had already received in response to a subpoena.
Other challengers include conservative attorney John Eastman, “Stop the Steal” movement organizer Ali Alexander, and longtime Trump ally Sebastian Gorka. Steve Bannon, another top adviser to Trump, is facing criminal prosecution for defying a committee subpoena; he’s vowed to fight the charges.
Scavino’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward Jr., declined to comment.