The newspapers are now fairly awash with stories of what the coup-attempting Donald Trump, now under indictment for over 90 alleged federal and state crimes, has planned for a second term. For Trump himself, the main goal is revenge against his enemies. He has been loud in his assertions that he will seize control of the Justice Department in order to investigate and imprison those who have opposed him.
For Trump's many Republican allies, however, the goal is nothing less than a full purge of the government. Both Trump and those who used him believe the first Trump administration’s failures were caused by the unwillingness of government workers and appointees to embrace new hard-right policies that they believed strayed well into the territory of criminal acts. Trump repeatedly fired his own appointees when they resisted his most extreme demands. In their own attempts at public redemption, aides and appointees regularly went to the press with their own stories of how they slow-walked or distracted Trump during the many times when, out of either incompetence or malice, he again demanded his administration do something illegal.
For Trump's allies, then, the goal is to make sure the administration is stocked only with loyalists who will carry out potentially illegal orders—by culling any potential administration hires who have expressed past resistance to such extremism. And, for better or worse, none of those allies are even attempting to hide it.
Axios has one of the more detailed looks at current efforts to staff up a potential second Trump administration. It's an all-encompassing effort to find loyalists willing to embrace "Agenda 47," the authoritarian remaking of government that Trump and his allies have envisioned.
Other reports have focused on the involvement of brazen fascists like Steve Bannon or the rabidly white nationalist Stephen Miller. That's misleading. It's the power brokers of conservatism itself who are leading this effort to remake government into a tool wielded by people willing to ignore the rule of law in order to consolidate far-right power.
The government-in-waiting is being orchestrated by the Heritage Foundation's well-funded Project 2025, which already has published a 920-page policy book from 400+ contributors. Think of it as a transition team set in motion years in advance. ...
Project 2025 gets muscle from 80 partners, including Turning Point USA, led by MAGA star Charlie Kirk; the Center for Renewing America, headed by former Trump budget director Russ Vought; and American Moment, focused on young believers for junior positions.
If you haven't been thinking of the pompous and stuffy Heritage Foundation as a fascist group, think again. Heritage has turned its bulk and expertise to plans to wipe government of "moderate" conservatives and stuff it with people who will obey Trump White House demands that his enemies be arrested, that voting machines be "seized," that the National Guard or the U.S. military be brought in to police elections that Republicans might not win, or any of the countless other Trump White House demands that even longtime hard-liners like former Attorney General Bill Barr refused to be a part of.
Now Barr and other hard-liners are in Heritage's sights as conservatism's enemies. You are either the unquestioning pawn of a fascist leader or you are out.
Heritage's "Presidential Personnel Database" already has 4,000+ entries, we're told.
We're told immense, intense attention will be given to the social-media histories of anyone being considered for top jobs. Those queasy about testing the limits of Trump's power will get flagged and rejected.
The FBI might as well cut and paste that list of extremists for its own future needs. Making the Heritage Foundation list of radicals who won’t get “queasy” about testing the limits of the rule of law is an extraordinarily dubious honor. If the nation survives the next coup attempt, it’s almost certain that the ringleaders will have registered themselves on this fascists-seeking-fascists version of LinkedIn.
The Axios story is worth a full read, because it is blunt where The New York Times insists on being sloppy. There's no sugarcoating there when it comes to the description of the Trump- and Heritage-fueled plans. Its summary of the four major planks of a second Trump presidency is a concise description of a clearly fascist agenda. Not authoritarian: fascist. It's worth quoting in full:
1. [Trump's] top obsession will be the Justice Department, the FBI and the intelligence community — all of which he thinks conspired to investigate him, thwart him, screw him. He's been very clear that he's willing to unleash these agencies against political enemies.
Trump is talking about using his governmental powers—which he will have to create wholesale, as they are blatantly criminal in nature—in an attempt to imprison political opponents.
2. The next priority will be the Department of Homeland Security and the border, with plans to erect sprawling detention camps, "scour the country for unauthorized immigrants," and "deport people by the millions per year," The New York Times reports. We're told Trump's top criterion for immigration officials will be whoever promises to be most aggressive. Trump has told allies he's confident the Supreme Court will back his most draconian moves.
This is Naziism. The notion of "sprawling detention camps" for the "unauthorized" is already genocide-adjacent; roving paramilitary bands hunting the "unauthorized" down harkens back to World War II Germany. And what do we suppose will happen if the Supreme Court does not back Trump's most "draconian" fever dreams after the rest of the government has been purged of the disloyal?
3. As first reported by Jonathan Swan for Axios last year, a key tool for Trump's "revenge term" would be the use of Schedule F personnel powers to wipe out employment protections for tens of thousands of civil servants across the federal government. Trump allies want a deep and wide purge of the professional staff that often serves across new administrations.
An unfathomably dangerous ideological purge of regular government workers, all to ensure that nobody remains who would dare balk when ordered to carry out Heritage-approved new orders.
4. Officials close to the Pentagon tell us they're worried about a plan, articulated by former Trump official Russ Vought in the Heritage document, to direct the National Security Council to "rigorously review all general and flag officer promotions to prioritize the core roles and responsibilities of the military over social engineering and non-defense related matters, including climate change, critical race theory [and] manufactured extremism." Indeed, the Trump allies see obstacles to remove at every level of every agency.
An ideological purge of the U.S. military so that it, too, is loyal to conservatism rather than to the nation.
The most notable feature of the Heritage-"orchestrated" plan is that it appears constructed specifically as a response to the failure of the Jan. 6 coup attempt. In the military, in the Justice Department, and among the ranks of civil servants themselves, the proposals to nullify the election, declare martial law, and potentially hold a "new" election overseen by the military each went nowhere because there were an abundance of officials who would not go along with seditious acts at the whim of Trump's far-right inner circle. Strip out all of the people who objected, both in government and in the military itself, and a second coup becomes both plausible and winnable.
This is not merely Trumpism. If it were Trumpism, then it would be Trump proposing the agenda and his underlings carrying it out. Trump himself, however, has been generally indifferent to policy except as means of riling his far-right base; it is the conservatives around him who have shaped that agenda and pressed for Trump to adopt it as his own. These four planks are the Heritage Foundation’s plan to unmake America, forming a one-party government that sees laws as unconstraining and fungible.
Conservatism has fully collapsed into a fascist movement, and Trump is merely the tool. When he is gone, they will find another.
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