When the committee investigating the January 6 insurrection struggled to serve Dan Scavino with a subpoena, the former Donald Trump aide said he had been in a fairly obvious locale: Mar-a-Lago.
“The dangerous and false narrative of me trying to avoid or evade a subpoena is a disgrace,” Scavino tweeted in October. “Not ONE attempt was made to contact/serve me when I was at Mar a Lago for 6 days or home in NY for 8 days thereafter!”
One of the first witnesses the House select committee subpoenaed in September for information leading up to and during the events of January 6, Scavino was eventually served. He hired a savvy lawyer, quietly engaged with the committee and still has not offered testimony. With his witness status in limbo, he’s still appearing in public alongside Trump.
Scavino is just one of the many Trump allies to slow walk, stonewall or snub the January 6 committee – all while doubling down on their allegiance to Trump. Sources tell CNN it’s a balancing act for Trump loyalists trying to decide whether to cooperate with the congressional investigation seeking to understand the events that unfolded on January 6 and prevent further assaults on democracy. Some have quietly provided documents and testimony. But nearly a dozen others have filed lawsuits challenging the committee’s legitimacy.
For some Trump allies, the legal ramifications or risk to their reputations is worth the cost of trying to stay in Trump’s good graces as he eyes another run for the White House. Those would-be witnesses are still popping up at Mar-a-Lago, bragging about their conversations with the former President and predicting his return to the Oval Office.
“That is 100% of the calculation,” said Alyssa Farah, a CNN political commentator and former Trump communications director who cooperated with the committee and gave a deposition. “What is the death grip on the Republican Party right now is the idea of Donald Trump running again in 2024, and people not wanting to risk losing their stature with him.”
A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the committee said the panel is”working to provide the American people with answers about a violent attack on democracy.”
“The hundreds of witnesses who have provided information to the Select Committee so far have done so voluntarily or are following the law and complying with a Select Committee subpoena,” the spokesperson said. “Those trying to obstruct the committee’s work face a simple decision: change course and cooperate or risk enforcement action.”
Scavino first met Trump when he was a 16-year-old working at a New York golf course. He has since spent decades at Trump’s side, rising to social media director and deputy chief of staff when Trump was in the White House.
These days, he’s still sticking closely to the former President.
In December, Scavino announced on social media that he was headed to Mar-a-Lago, later posting a photo from an event there.
When Trump traveled to Atlanta for Game 4 of the World Series and took part in the controversial “Tomahawk Chop,” Scavino was in the private box along with him.
When Trump appeared at an Iowa rally in October, he tore into the committee: “The left’s new obsession is the un-select committee,” Trump told the crowd. “They have an un-select committee.”
Scavino, whose attorney declined to comment for this story, was there as well – sharing the view behind the rope line with his social media followers.
Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally and sometimes political adviser who was subpoenaed by the committee, opted for another route to avoid answering questions: He invoked his right against self-incrimination, pleading the Fifth Amendment.
“I question the legitimacy of this inquiry,” Stone said, after emerging from his December meeting with the House select committee, where investigators had hoped to learn more about Stone’s activities at a January 5 rally, among other queries. “This is witch hunt 3.0.”
Stone has a fraught history with congressional investigations. After his last appearance before lawmakers in 2017, during the Russia investigation, he was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering. Trump later pardoned him.
In this case, Stone was quick to point out to reporters that he was not at the US Capitol on January 6 and insisted he played no part in planning the violence. During his rally appearance a day earlier, though, he repeated baseless claims the election was stolen and told attendees, “I will be with you tomorrow shoulder to shoulder.”
“Just because I know Donald Trump – and I’ve known him for 40 years – just because I know a few guys who are members of Proud Boys, just because I came in contact with members of the Oath Keepers does not mean that I have full legal liability for everything that happened on January 6, which I know nothing about and I wasn’t present for,” Stone said at an event, according to a video posted on Facebook in September.
Grant Smith, Stone’s attorney, said, “He engaged with the Select Committee and appeared as required. … Mr. Stone has no knowledge of any of the events that led to the illegal acts that occurred at the Capitol that day.”
Stone, meanwhile, has continued professing his support for Trump. He appeared at a December event at Mar-a-Lago, grinning widely in a photo posted by another guest on social media.
In late November, Stone posted on his social media that he had a “great chat” with Trump.
“Donald Trump is my first, second and third choice for 2024,” Stone wrote.
Operatives like Stone and Scavino have become so enmeshed with Trump’s brand it’s perhaps unsurprising that they’re sticking by him, Farah said.
“There’s a certain sect of the Republican Party and those close to the former President, who never want to fall out of his good graces,” Farah said. “Where else are they going to go? He’s their lifeline.”
While there is likely little the January 6 committee can do about witnesses broadly invoking the Fifth Amendment, other potential witnesses could pay a higher personal cost for their fealty to Trump.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows handed thousands of documents to the committee. But he balked at testifying about his knowledge of efforts to overturn the election and the events leading up to and during the January 6 insurrection, insisting on shielding some of his conversations with the former President under claims of executive privilege.
The House voted to recommend the Department of Justice pursue criminal contempt charges against Meadows.
A fixture in Trump’s orbit, Meadows was spotted at a November event at Mar-a-Lago, more than a month after he was subpoenaed. But his relationship with Trump grew strained amid the fallout from some of the documents Meadows turned over to the select committee as well a book Meadows penned with embarrassing revelations about Trump, a source told CNN.
Meadows has since sued the committee and used right-wing media appearances to lavish Trump with praise and attempt to rewrite the history of January 6, insisting Trump acted swiftly to keep people safe, despite the evidence to the contrary.
“This is about Donald Trump and about actually going after him once again,” Meadows said in a December Fox News interview.
A representative for Meadows declined to comment.
For Steve Bannon, a right-wing firebrand and Trump’s former White House strategist, his resistance to the committee might as well be a badge of support for the Trump movement.
Investigators hoped to question Bannon about his alleged efforts to encourage Trump to focus on January 6 and other events leading up to that day, including his remark on January 5 that, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
After defying a subpoena from the committee, Bannon was charged with criminal contempt of Congress and has pleaded not guilty. He declined to comment.
It was Bannon’s second federal indictment in two years. Although the last time he faced charges, Trump pardoned him.
While Bannon’s relationship with Trump often runs hot and cold, Bannon has made clear his loyalty still lands with the former President. He has used his podcast to encourage Trump supporters – particularly ones who incorrectly believe the 2020 election was stolen – to run for higher office, snap up spots on local school boards and become election officials.
In a recent podcast episode, Bannon predicted it was only a matter of time before Trump returned to the Oval Office.
“We’re going to hit the beach and you’ll have the landing teams, the beachhead teams and all that nomenclature they use when President Trump wins again in 2024 — or before,” he said.
CNN’s Jeff Simon, Gabby Orr and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.