Election 2024

Trump tries to distance himself from Project 2025—the far right’s playbook for a second term

Former President Donald Trump during the debate against President Joe Biden on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta.
Former President Donald Trump during the debate against President Joe Biden on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. Photo: Jack Gruber/USA TODAY / USA TODAY NETWORK via IMAGN

This article first appeared on Mother Jones. It has been republished with the publication’s permission.

My colleague David Corn recently wrote about Project 2025, a public plan crafted by the Heritage Foundation with help from prominent Trump world officials that, if implemented, would essentially destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and bestow unprecedented power on the presidency. As its name openly lays out, this draconian collection of public policy plans, specifically looks to 2025 to make this conservative fever dream a reality.

As Robert Shea, former senior budget official for George W. Bush, told The Atlantic: “I can’t overstate my level of concern about the damage this would do to the institution of the federal government. You would have things formerly considered illegal or unconstitutional popping up all across the government like whack-a-mole.”

But Donald Trump on Saturday claimed to “know nothing about” Project 2025, insisting that he has “no idea” who is behind it. “I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal,” he said on Truth Social.

This, of course, is not true; former Trump officials and close allies are directly involved in Project 2025’s operation. And as the project’s website touts, “the Trump administration relied heavily on Heritage’s ‘Mandate’ for policy guidance.

Yet, Trump’s sudden attempt to distance himself from Project 2025 comes with increasing public awareness of the plan. The actress Taraji P. Henson made multiple references while hosting the BET Awards last month, urging viewers to look up “Project 2025” because it spelled disaster for vulnerable people. “Project 2025 is not a game,” Henson said at one point. The Biden campaign released a statement on Saturday warning that the plan, which “should scare every single American,” was written specifically for Trump by his closest allies.

Could Trump’s disavowal signal a rare vulnerability for the former president in his summer of momentum? It’s rare for reams of public policy to make a mark among voters. But perhaps by pushing a vision of unfettered presidential power, this 920-page extremist playbook may be the exception. After all, the Supreme Court’s recent decision putting the president above the law shows that Project 2025 is no longer an unthinkable fantasy.

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