“The archetype of what we want to end in a bureaucrat is none other than Dr. [Anthony] Fauci,” Dans says. Many conservatives believe that Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, helped cost Trump a second term by allegedly overreacting to the Covid crisis without taking directions from the president and helping to shut down the economy unnecessarily.
“No bureaucrat should have an action figure made of him,” jokes Dans. “Fauci had 50 years on the job in one of the most technically demanding and ever-changing professions in bio-science. Either the person is a genius on the order of Einstein or is Machiavellian in terms of keeping power. I would submit the latter.”
Vought says his team is also working on a slew of detailed plans on the DOJ in particular that would allow the White House to “defund a lot of functions.” One proposal would require Congress to start with a 25-percent cut in FBI funding to eliminate the bureau’s intelligence capabilities, which have transformed it “from a law enforcement agency to a domestic intelligence agency.” Another proposal would gain White House control of the solicitor general and bring Justice Department attorneys into line with the president’s wishes, as well as allow them to raise legitimate questions about election “fraud” without fear of retribution.
Two key figures involved in Project 2025 were both recently indicted along with Trump in Georgia: former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, who’s head of the Conservative Partnership Institute; and Jeffrey Clark, who is working for one of the groups aligned with Dans, the CPI-launched Center for Renewing America. Clark, an environmental lawyer who almost precipitated a mass resignation by Justice Department attorneys in December 2020 when Trump threatened to make him acting attorney general, is seeking to implement Trump’s first-term wish to eliminate any independence by the DOJ. In a paper published in May by the CRA, Clark argued the idea the Justice Department “is or should be independent” is unconstitutional.
Furthering the Trump agenda, CRA is also working on a paper that will take classification decisions out of the hands of deep-state bureaucrats. It is developing other plans to allow a president to halt congressionally mandated funding at his pleasure, as Trump did when he held up foreign aid to Ukraine allegedly to pressure its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to investigate President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, eventually touching off the impeachment crisis.
All such efforts, Vought insists, would respect the principle of checks and balances and restore constitutional order as the Founders intended. “It’s more trying to get back to the Founders’ understanding of the executive branch,” Vought says.
Indeed, the irony of all this — and it’s a bitter, almost unresolvable irony — is that both sides of the political spectrum are now holding up the “Constitution” as the thing they most want to preserve, and yet they remain utterly opposed about how to do it. For Democrats it’s about holding Trump accountable under the Constitution; for Republicans, it’s about taking down the unconstitutional administrative state they believe is after Trump. No negotiations between the two sides are planned.
Many of the key players in this ambitious program openly acknowledge that their efforts were doomed in the first Trump term because they didn’t know what they were doing; it was no contest confronting a Democrat-stuffed “deep state” (as well as all those RINOs Trump brought in), and conservatives have never been good at translating movement ideology into action going back to Reagan and the “triumph of politics.”
Along with Meadows, one of the godfathers of the new conservative insurgency is Dans’ boss, Ralph Waters, president of the Heritage Foundation, which came of age in the Reagan era and is now reinventing itself as the main mouthpiece of Trumpism, overseeing Project 2025.
“What we’ve never gotten right in the modern conservative movement, even under Reagan, was having a network of right of center professionals who were ready to go,” says Waters. “To get 10,000 to 20,000 names into this database who are not only submitting their resumes but also being vetted to some extent, and who, depending upon the classification of the position we think they’re suitable for, are going through these training modules — that’s the part that’s never been done before.
“Do we have conservatives who are experts at killing bureaucracies?” Waters says. “No. The conservative movement has not developed this capability. But we’re going to as a result of Project 2025.”
‘Republicans still don’t like the idea of expertise’
Little of the Project 2025 agenda is likely — even remotely likely — to happen, of course.
In recent decades, a few small agencies have been privatized, some powers ceded to states and localities. But the growth of the federal bureaucracy generally goes in one direction, history teaches, as demonstrated over the decades by the GOP’s spasmodic efforts to eliminate the Department of Education — now viewed as the evil font of “wokeism” — which Reagan declared on the 1980 campaign trail to be a “bureaucratic boondoggle.”
Moreover, while the orneriness of the Pentagon and military leadership were a problem for Trump — and a particular target of the new agenda — the Trumpists also want to be hawkish on China. And that’s going to present a huge problem if they want to bring the military-industrial complex — which everyone involved in Project 2025 agrees is the most out of control — into line with White House wishes.
One of the few generals who hasn’t abandoned Trump — and works for the America First Policy Institute — is retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who complains in an interview that Biden is going too easy on Chinese President Xi Jinping. “Eventually we’re going to have to draw the bright line. And this administration hasn’t drawn it yet,” Kellogg says. His proposal is to resurrect something like NSC-68, the founding strategy for the Cold War adopted under Harry Truman in 1950. “Give me an NSC-68 for China,” Kellogg says. The problem: NSC-68 created the modern national security state — and a new one will almost certainly make the Pentagon and defense industrial complex even more unwieldy since external threats tend to enlarge the national security apparatus. Just look at the Department of Homeland Security. And recall that Reaganite attempts to dismantle the Department of Education were abandoned after its 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, suggested that the U.S. could lose the Cold War in the classroom.