How Right-Wing Groups Are Plotting To Implement Trump’s Authoritarianism

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Project 2025 is an out-in-the-open scheme to steer the US toward far-right autocracy.

Editor’s note: The below article first appeared in David Corn’s newsletter, Our Land. The newsletter comes out twice a week (most of the time) and provides behind-the-scenes stories and articles about politics, media, and culture. Subscribing costs just $5 a month—but you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Our Land here. Plus, David Corn’s American Psychosis: A Historical Investigation of How the Republican Party Went Crazy, a New York Times bestseller, has just been released in a new and expanded paperback edition. 

There is an authoritarian danger that threatens American democracy. It is a separate peril from Donald Trump and his tens of millions of rabid supports. It is the right-wing infrastructure that is publicly plotting to undermine the checks and balances of our constitutional order and concentrate unprecedented power in the presidency. Its efforts, if successful and coupled with a Trump (or other GOP) victory in 2024, would place the nation on a path to autocracy.

Trump’s desire to be a strongman ruler are no secret. He has repeatedly uttered statements that reveal a craving to be in total control of the US government. As he mounts a second campaign for the White House, his team has openly discussed his plans to consolidate government power in the White House should he win. The New York Times recently reported that his crew aims “to alter the balance of power by increasing the president’s authority over every part of the federal government that now operates, by either law or tradition, with any measure of independence from political interference by the White House.” The Washington Post ran a story in April headlined, “Trump touts authoritarian vision for second term.”

These plans include altering the rules governing the civil service so that tens of thousands of federal workers—maybe more—would be subject to immediate dismissal by the White House. That would mean that Trump could fire employees at federal agencies who do not pledge their loyalty to Trump—or who question the legality or appropriateness of White House directives. Say, Trump or an underling orders the IRS to audit the tax returns of a political foe and an IRS career official objects, that person could be pink-slipped.

Yet this effort to reshape the US government extends far beyond the fevered fantasies of one failed casino owner and his henchmen and henchwomen. Much of the right-wing establishment—including its leading think tanks and policy shops—are part of the attempt to concentrate federal power in the hands of Trump or another Republican president.

Conservatives have been advocating placing the White House in direct control of the Justice Department—that is, tearing down the (metaphorical) wall erected after Watergate that essentially blocks the president from unduly influencing the decisions of the agency and its criminal and civil investigations.  Leading this charge has been Jeffrey Clark, the top Justice Department official who, not coincidentally, colluded with Trump after the 2020 election to push the department to falsely claim the election returns were fraudulent.(Clark was indicted last month in Fulton County, Georgia, as part of the criminal case that alleged Trump ran a “criminal enterprise” to overturn the last election.) Clark had been working on this Justice Department initiative as a senior fellow at the Center for Renewing America, a Washington, DC-based think tank run and staffed by Trump administration veterans, including Russell Vought, the former head of the Office of Management and Budget, and Kash Patel, who worked for Trump at the National Security Council.

The Center for Renewing America is merely a small piece of the right’s let’s-go-authoritarian operation. Dozens of conservative outfits—led by the Heritage Foundation—have banded together to produce what they call Project 2025, which has released a 1,000-page report, Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise, which provides a blueprint for a wannabe-White-House-autocrat. Their proposals include removing protections for federal employees so perhaps as many as 50,000 could be fired and replaced with Trump (or Republican) loyalists. This would be done under the banner of annihilating the supposed “deep state” bureaucracy and smashing the “administrative state.”

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