A look at the Project 2025 plan to reshape government and Trump's links to its authors – PBS NewsHour

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A look at the Project 2025 plan to reshape government and Trump's links to its authors – PBS NewsHour

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Former President Trump has distanced himself from Project 2025, the handbook for a new conservative government written by several right-wing think tanks. It comes as Democrats double down on messaging tying Trump directly to the playbook ahead of the November election. White House Correspondent Laura Barrón-López reports.
Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.
Amna Nawaz:
Former President Donald Trump has distanced himself from Project 2025, the handbook for a new conservative government written by several right-wing think tanks.
The presumptive Republican nominee said on TRUTH Social that he knows — quote — “nothing” about Project 2025 and has no idea who’s behind it. That comes as Democrats double down on their messaging, tying Trump directly to the playbook ahead of the November election.
Our White House correspondent, Laura Barron-Lopez, has been covering this and joins me now.
So, Laura, former President Trump, denies he knows anyone behind Project 2025. Your reporting shows he’s actually connected to some of the architects behind it. What have you found?
Laura Barron-Lopez:
That’s right, Amna.
So, Project 2025, we’re talking about this more-than-900-page blueprint that was crafted by Heritage Foundation in coordination with other right-wing think tanks for a future Donald Trump presidency. And now, despite Donald Trump’s denials that he knows who these people are, he is deeply connected to key authors of Project 2025, which include Paul Dans, Roger Severino, Ken Cuccinelli, Christopher Miller, and Russ Vought.
All of these people served in Trump’s administration and are considered serious contenders for top positions in any second Trump term if he were to win office. Also, Russ Vought and Ed Martin, who helped craft Project 2025, are authors also of the new Republican Party platform.
So they’re deeply connected to the party apparatus, and as well as Stephen Miller. He is someone who was a top adviser to President Trump when he was in the White House and still remains a top adviser to Trump. And he’s tried to distance himself as well from Project 2025, but the facts are, Amna, that his group, America First Legal, is a part of Project 2025’s advisory board.
Amna Nawaz:
And you have been reporting one of their biggest goals, this group’s been a part of the White House biggest goals is to reshape the Justice Department? Tell us about that.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
That’s right.
Project 2025 proposes placing the Justice Department squarely under Donald Trump’s authority, doing away with any traditional independence that we usually see for the Justice Department and the attorney general. They want Donald Trump to install a loyal attorney general, install loyal lawyers across the board, and Trump himself has repeatedly said that he wants to do this.
Donald Trump, Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate: We will restore law and order in our country.
(Cheering and applause)
Donald Trump:
And I will direct a completely overhauled DOJ to investigate every radical out-of-control prosecutor in America for their illegal, racist and reverse enforcement of the law.
(Cheering and applause)
Donald Trump:
There is no law.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
That, Amna, is a regular part of Donald Trump’s stump speeches. So it’s not just Project 2025 proposing this. It’s also the former president himself.
And Russ Vought, again, that person, the — who worked in Donald Trump’s first administration, likely going to be into any second Donald Trump administration, has said that the Justice Department is not an independent agency. He has said this publicly, and that if anyone were to try to say that they are independent in a second potential Trump term, that he would kick them out of the White House.
Amna Nawaz:
So reshaping the Justice Department seems to be just one part of a larger plan to change the federal government, including gutting career civil servants.
What has your reporting found on that?
Laura Barron-Lopez:
The Project 2025 blueprint proposes abolishing the Department of Education, transforming the FBI into a political task force, reinstituting what’s known as Schedule F. That’s an executive authority that would be instituted by Trump to grow the number of political appointees across the civil service.
And they also want to install roughly 20,000 loyal civil servants across agencies. And they have been preparing for this. Project 2025 leaders have called those loyalists — quote — “conservative warriors.” They have called them an army. They have called — of weaponized conservatives.
And they want to essentially make lawyers across all federal agencies, not just the Justice Department, any legal counsel, they want to make them loyal Trump — loyal — loyalists to Trump.
And I spoke to Don Moynihan. He’s a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, who said that changes like this would be radical to American government, the biggest changes that we have seen to the American bureaucracy since the civil service was created in the 1880s.
Donald Moynihan, Georgetown University:
I do think this would add measurably to the risks of corruption in American government. President Trump talks a lot about the deep state. Again, that is very similar to what authoritarians in other countries have tended to do to justify taking more direct control over civil service systems.
So I think there is a dangerous pattern here, where it would not just reduce the quality of government. It would also open the door for abuses of political power.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
And to guard against this, Amna, we should note that President Joe Biden tried to institute protections for civil servants, protecting them from firing if Donald Trump were to win in November.
But, ultimately, a regulation like that could be undone by a Donald Trump presidency within the first year he takes office.
Amna Nawaz:
Well, Laura, what about the necessary context here? That is the recent Supreme Court decision deciding that President Trump, any president, has some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts.
What does all that mean for how easy the policy plans in Project 2025 would be to implement?
Laura Barron-Lopez:
It could potentially make it easier, Amna.
And constitutional scholars that I have spoken to have said that the decision, that Supreme Court decision, could strengthen the basis of Project 2025, which is known as the unitary executive theory, which essentially says that the president has total control over the executive branch, over all the federal agencies.
And the president of The Heritage Foundation, Kevin Roberts, praised that Supreme Court ruling, calling it vital, and said that it was part of a wider conservative reawakening.
Kevin Roberts, President, Heritage Foundation:
We are in the process of the second American revolution, which will remain bloodless, if the left allows it to be.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
Professor Moynihan added, Amna, that ultimately the Supreme Court decision could help any future president justify getting rid of longstanding independence of the Justice Department or other agencies that are known to be independent, that it could allow them to justify totally doing away with that.
Amna Nawaz:
That’s our White House correspondent, Laura Barron-Lopez, with a look at what a second Trump administration could bring.
Laura, thank you.
Laura Barron-Lopez:
Thank you.
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Laura Barrón-López is the White House Correspondent for the PBS News Hour, where she covers the Biden administration for the nightly news broadcast. She is also a CNN political analyst.

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