Republicans call Trump’s move to distance himself from Project 2025 ‘preposterous’ – The Guardian US

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Republicans call Trump’s move to distance himself from Project 2025 ‘preposterous’ – The Guardian US

Trump’s claim to ‘know nothing’ about radical plan recognizes it could sink campaign, ex-Pence adviser says
Donald Trump’s “preposterous” efforts to disavow Project 2025, a rightwing blueprint for a radical takeover of the US government if the former president is re-elected in November, have been derided by former Republican figures.
The Project 2025 plan includes calls for replacing civil servants with Trump loyalists, eliminating the education department, putting the justice department under the president’s thumb and banning the abortion pill.
Democrats have made concerted efforts to say the 900-plus page document from the conservative Heritage Foundation thinktank would be representative of a second Trump presidency.
But although it was written by former members of Trump’s first administration, and he regularly echoes its policies in his speeches, last week Trump tried to disown the initiative.
Posting on his Truth Social website, the presumptive Republican nominee claimed to “know nothing about Project 2025” and have “no idea who is behind it”.
He added: “I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”
Olivia Troye, a former White House adviser to Mike Pence who sat in on policy sessions during Trump’s first presidency, said Trump’s attempt to distance himself from Project 2025 was driven by a recognition that its deeply controversial policy prescriptions could sink his election bid.
“This is preposterous if you look at the collaborators and the authors of this plan,” she told CNN when asked whether Trump’s denial was credible. “A lot of these people…served in Trump’s cabinet during his administration. There are people that I worked with. I sat in those policy meetings with them.”
Troye identified various figures – including John McEntee, who was Trump’s director of White House personnel, Stephen Miller, a senior adviser in his first administration, Ben Carson, the housing and urban development secretary in his cabinet, and Ken Cuccinelli, a former deputy secretary of homeland security – as among the project’s leading architects.
Carson has been “out there on the campaign trail” with Trump, she said.
“I think what this is telling us is that Donald Trump knows that what is written in this plan is so extreme that it is damaging to his possibility of getting elected, and that’s what he’s concerned about.”
“Exactly how do you ‘disagree’ with something you ‘know nothing about’ or ‘have no idea’ who is behind, saying or doing the thing you disagree with?” said former RNC chair and current MSNBC host Michael Steele in echoing Troye’s derision.
“And how exactly don’t you know that Project 2025 director Paul Dans served as your chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management, and associate director Spencer Chretien served as your special assistant and associate director of presidential personnel?”
Among the plan’s more drastic proposals are to fire thousands of permanent civil servants and replace them with hired conservative Trump loyalists, dismantling the federal education department, asserting presidential power over the justice department – which is nominally independent – and a ban on the abortion pill.
The Democrats, currently in the throes of a fierce internal debate over whether to retain Joe Biden as their presidential candidate, have settled on trying to make Project 2025 a household phrase in a drive to illustrate what a second Trump presidency would mean.
Troye said the project should be seen as a threat not just to Democrats but to moderate conservatives, too.
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“If you go through and really read through this plan, this is complete overreach by the federal government on our individual liberties,” she said.
“[It talks] about law enforcement and how they’re going to use federal law enforcement in local states and local cities … with no oversight. Because there’s no oversight when they do that. They’ve learned all the lessons during the first Trump term, and that is what is frightening here. I think we need to be paying attention to this, and no amount of distancing by Donald Trump should be believed …I sat in [on] policy-making meetings with these people.”
Trump surrogates have tried to back up his effort to separate himself from the project, with Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida who has been touted as a possible running mate for Trump, claiming in a Sunday interview with CNN that there was no connection between Project 2025 and Trump.
“Thinktanks do thinktank stuff. They come up with ideas, they say things,” he said. “But our party’s candidate for president is Donald Trump.”
He also dismissed the importance of comments by the Heritage Foundation’s president, Kevin Roberts, who said in an interview with Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast last week that conservative-driven “second American revolution” will be bloodless “if the left allows it to be” – viewed by many Democrats as an implied threat of political violence.
“He’s not running for president,” Rubio said. “Our candidate’s Donald Trump. I didn’t see Donald Trump say that.”
The denials appear to be undermined by close studies of the personnel involved in the document’s formulation.
Of the 38 people involved in the writing and editing of Project 2025, 31 of them were nominated to positions in Trump’s administration or transition team – meaning 81% of the document’s creators held formal roles in Trump’s presidency.

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