A radical plan for Trump’s second term

https://www.axios.com/2022/07/22/trump-2025-radical-plan-second-term

The article claims big money funded groups are drawing up list of positions they want cleared to put their people put into.   Yes some might be big money polluters but what do you want to bet that the religious groups are going to push hard and pay to get their people into the regulating bodies and they daily bureaucratic positions that make the daily rules the government functions on.    This is another reason we cannot let the Republicans get into to office.   Think of this, a Texas tRump judge said Biden couldn’t change tRump’s polices on the Southern border.   That is the job of the president to set policy on the borders, but the racist don’t want no one allowed in policy to change, so this judge said Biden had to continue the tRump rules.   Biden appealed to the SCOTUS which said they would leave the ruling in place and hear the case in December for a ruling next year.    They never made tRump operate on a lower court ruling.   So that tells you how the SCOTUS is going to rule, fully republican racist overturning the Federal government’s ability to set policy of the borders.    ICE and the border patrol are now a rogue agency with no controls over them.   Scary isn’t it.   This is a bit long but worth the read.   Better to be forewarned than taken by surprise.   Hugs

Photo illustration of President Trump with a photo from a campaign rally overlayed on his suit jacket
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Seth Herald, Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Former President Trump’s top allies are preparing to radically reshape the federal government if he is re-elected, purging potentially thousands of civil servants and filling career posts with loyalists to him and his “America First” ideology, people involved in the discussions tell Axios.

The impact could go well beyond typical conservative targets such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. Trump allies are working on plans that would potentially strip layers at the Justice Department — including the FBI, and reaching into national security, intelligence, the State Department and the Pentagon, sources close to the former president say.

During his presidency, Trump often complained about what he called “the deep state.”

The heart of the plan is derived from an executive order known as “Schedule F,” developed and refined in secret over most of the second half of Trump’s term and launched 13 days before the 2020 election.

The reporting for this series draws on extensive interviews over a period of more than three months with more than two dozen people close to the former president, and others who have firsthand knowledge of the work underway to prepare for a potential second term. Most spoke on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive planning and avoid Trump’s ire.

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As Trump publicly flirts with a 2024 comeback campaign, this planning is quietly flourishing from Mar-a-Lago to Washington — with his blessing but without the knowledge of some people in his orbit.

Trump remains distracted by his obsession with contesting the 2020 election results. But he has endorsed the work of several groups to prime an administration-in-waiting. Personnel and action plans would be executed in the first 100 days of a second term starting on Jan. 20, 2025.

Their work could accelerate controversial policy and enforcement changes, but also enable revenge tours against real or perceived enemies, and potentially insulate the president and allies from investigation or prosecution.

They intend to stack thousands of mid-level staff jobs. Well-funded groups are already developing lists of candidates selected often for their animus against the system — in line with Trump’s long-running obsession with draining “the swamp.” This includes building extensive databases of people vetted as being committed to Trump and his agenda.

The preparations are far more advanced and ambitious than previously reported. What is happening now is an inversion of the slapdash and virtually non-existent infrastructure surrounding Trump ahead of his 2017 presidential transition.

These groups are operating on multiple fronts: shaping policies, identifying top lieutenants, curating an alternative labor force of unprecedented scale, and preparing for legal challenges and defenses that might go before Trump-friendly judges, all the way to a 6-3 Supreme Court.

 
The centerpiece

Trump signed an executive order, “Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service,” in October 2020, which established a new employment category for federal employees. It received wide media coverage for a short period, then was largely forgotten in the mayhem and aftermath of Jan. 6 — and quickly was rescinded by President Biden.

Sources close to Trump say that if he were elected to a second term, he would immediately reimpose it.

Tens of thousands of civil servants who serve in roles deemed to have some influence over policy would be reassigned as “Schedule F” employees. Upon reassignment, they would lose their employment protections.

New presidents typically get to replace more than 4,000 so-called “political” appointees to oversee the running of their administrations. But below this rotating layer of political appointees sits a mass of government workers who enjoy strong employment protections — and typically continue their service from one administration to the next, regardless of the president’s party affiliation.

An initial estimate by the Trump official who came up with Schedule F found it could apply to as many as 50,000 federal workers — a fraction of a workforce of more than 2 million, but a segment with a profound role in shaping American life.

Trump, in theory, could fire tens of thousands of career government officials with no recourse for appeals. He could replace them with people he believes are more loyal to him and to his “America First” agenda.

Even if Trump did not deploy Schedule F to this extent, the very fact that such power exists could create a significant chilling effect on government employees.

It would effectively upend the modern civil service, triggering a shock wave across the bureaucracy. The next president might then move to gut those pro-Trump ranks — and face the question of whether to replace them with her or his own loyalists, or revert to a traditional bureaucracy.

Such pendulum swings and politicization could threaten the continuity and quality of service to taxpayers, the regulatory protections, the checks on executive power, and other aspects of American democracy.

Trump’s allies claim such pendulum swings will not happen because they will not have to fire anything close to 50,000 federal workers to achieve the result, as one source put it, of “behavior change.” Firing a smaller segment of “bad apples” among the career officials at each agency would have the desired chilling effect on others tempted to obstruct Trump’s orders.

They say Schedule F will finally end the “farce” of a nonpartisan civil service that they say has been filled with activist liberals who have been undermining GOP presidents for decades.

Unions and Democrats would be expected to immediately fight a Schedule F order. But Trump’s advisers like their chances in a judicial system now dominated at its highest levels by conservatives.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who chairs the subcommittee that oversees the federal civil service, is among a small group of lawmakers who never stopped worrying about Schedule F, even after Biden rescinded the order. Connolly has been so alarmed that he attached an amendment to this year’s defense bill to prevent a future president from resurrecting Schedule F. The House passed Connolly’s amendment but Republicans hope to block it in the Senate.

 
Machine-in-waiting

No operation of this scale is possible without the machinery to implement it. To that end, Trump has blessed a string of conservative organizations linked to advisers he currently trusts and calls on. Most of these conservative groups host senior figures from the Trump administration on their payroll, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The names are a mix of familiar and new. They include Jeffrey Clark, the controversial lawyer Trump had wanted to install as attorney general in the end days of his presidency. Clark, who advocated a plan to contest the 2020 election results, is now in the crosshairs of the Jan. 6 committee and the FBI. Clark is working at the Center for Renewing America (CRA), the group founded by Russ Vought, the former head of Trump’s Office of Management and Budget.

Former Trump administration and transition officials working on personnel, legal or policy projects for a potential 2025 government include names like Vought, Meadows, Stephen Miller, Ed Corrigan, Wesley Denton, Brooke Rollins, James Sherk, Andrew Kloster and Troup Hemenway.

Others, who remain close to Trump and would be in contention for the most senior roles in a second-term administration, include Dan Scavino, John McEntee, Richard Grenell, Kash Patel, Robert O’Brien, David Bernhardt, John Ratcliffe, Peter Navarro and Pam Bondi.

Following splits from some of his past swathe of loyal advisers, Trump has tightened his circle. The Florida-based strategist Susie Wiles is Trump’s top political adviser. She runs his personal office and his political action committee. When he contemplates endorsements, Trump has often attached weight to the views of his former White House political director Brian Jack, pollster Tony Fabrizio, and his son Donald Trump Jr. He often consults another GOP pollster, John McLaughlin. For communications and press inquiries Trump calls on Taylor Budowich and Liz Harrington. Jason Miller remains in the mix.

As Trump’s obsessions with 2020 fester, he has also broken with many traditional conservative allies in Congress. Most notably, his relationship with the man who delivered Trump the rock-solid conservative Supreme Court he hankered for — Sen. Mitch McConnell — is broken. McConnell is no longer on speaking terms with the former president.

Now Trump looks to Rep. Jim Jordan as his closest confidant on Capitol Hill. He has stayed close to former Rep. Devin Nunes, who runs Trump’s social media company, Truth Social. Trump continues to be a big fan of the far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

​​The advocacy groups who have effectively become extensions of the Trump infrastructure include the CRA, the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), and the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI).

Other groups — while not formally connected to Trump’s operation — have hired key lieutenants and are effectively serving his ends. The Heritage Foundation, the legacy conservative group, has moved closer to Trump under its new president, Kevin Roberts, and is building links to other parts of the “America First” movement.

Sources who spoke to Axios paint a vivid picture of how the backroom plans are taking shape, starting with a series of interactions in Florida earlier this year, on April 28.

 
Trump’s new targets

On that warm spring night in April, an armada of black Escalades drove through the rain from a West Palm Beach hotel to Donald Trump’s Mediterranean-style private club.

Donors and Trump allies were getting soaked through their clothes as they waited in a brief downpour to be frisked by wands before they could access the inner sanctum of Mar-a-Lago.

Inside, near the bar past the patio, a balding man with dramatically arched eyebrows was the center of attention at a cocktail table. He was discussing the top-level staffing of the Justice Department if Trump were to regain the presidency in 2025.

With a background as an environmental lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, a veteran of George W. Bush’s administration, was unknown to the public until early 2021. By the end of the Trump administration, he was serving as the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division — although other DOJ leaders paid him little attention. But Trump, desperate to overturn the election, welcomed Clark, the only senior official willing to apply the full weight of the Justice Department to contesting Joe Biden’s victory, into his inner circle.

In February of this year, Clark repeatedly asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during a deposition with the Jan. 6 committee. And in the early hours of June 22, federal agents with an electronics-sniffing dog in tow arrived at Clark’s Virginia home to execute a search warrant and seize his devices.

But back in April, as Clark circulated at Mar-a-Lago wearing a loose-fitting black suit and blue shirt, any troubles related to the Jan. 6 investigation seemed a world away. Clark sounded optimistic. Half a dozen or so donors and Trump allies surrounded him at the high-top table.

One of the donors asked Clark what he thought would happen with the Justice Department if Trump won the 2024 election. Conveying the air of a deep confidant, Clark responded that he thought Trump had learned his lesson.

In a second term, Clark predicted, Trump would never appoint an attorney general who was not completely on board with his agenda.

There was a buzz around Clark. Given Trump wanted to make him attorney general in the final days of his first term, it is likely that Clark would be a serious contender for the top job in a second term.

By this stage in the evening, more than a hundred people were crammed onto the Mar-a-Lago patio. They were a mix of wealthy political donors and allies of the former president and they had come to see Trump himself bless Russ Vought’s organization, the Center for Renewing America.

Vought was a policy wonk who became one of Trump’s most trusted officials. Before joining the Trump administration in 2017 as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget — and ultimately going on to run the agency — Vought had a long career in conservative policy circles.

That included a stint as executive director and budget director of the Republican Study Committee — the largest bloc of House conservatives — and as the policy director for the House Republican Conference.

Trump was helping raise money for Vought’s CRA, which has been busily developing many of the policy and administrative plans that would likely form the foundation for a second-term Trump administration.

Trump himself was running late to the reception. But the introductory speaker, his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, was filibustering, entertaining the crowd with stories about Trump and Vought’s efforts to fight a deep state that had tried to thwart them. Meadows paused. He scanned the patio. “Are there any Cabinet secretaries here?” he asked the audience. “Raise your hand if you’re a Cabinet secretary.”

Nobody raised their hand. “Well that’s a good thing,” Meadows said. “They often weren’t cooperating with us.”

Meadows was picking up on a theme from earlier in the day, when Vought’s group had held off-site sessions at The Ben, a luxury hotel a 10-minute drive up the coast from Mar-a-Lago.

In those closed-door sessions, Trump confidants, including former senior administration officials, discussed the mistakes they had made in the first term that would need to be corrected if they regained power.

They agreed it was not just the “deep state” career bureaucrats who needed to be replaced. Often, the former Trump officials said, their biggest problems were with the political people that Trump himself had regrettably appointed. Never again should Trump hire people like his former chief of staff John Kelly, his former defense secretaries, James Mattis and Mark Esper, his CIA director Gina Haspel, and virtually the entire leadership of every iteration of Trump’s Justice Department.

Shortly after noon, Kash Patel entered The Ben’s ballroom. Donors and Trump allies sat classroom-style at long rectangular tables in a room with beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean.

The group was treated to a conversation between Patel and Mark Paoletta, a former senior Trump administration lawyer with a reputation for finding lateral ways to accomplish Trump’s goals. The Patel-Paoletta panel discussion was titled, “Battling the Deep State.”

Paoletta was a close family friend and prominent public defender of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas. Throughout the Trump administration, Ginni Thomas had taken a strong interest in administration personnel. She complained to White House officials, including Trump himself, that Trump’s people were obstructing “MAGA” officials from being appointed to key roles in the administration.

As Axios previously reported, Ginni Thomas had assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them.

Her recommendations to the White House included appointing the right-wing talk radio provocateur and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino for a Homeland Security or counterterrorism adviser role. Thomas has recently been a subject of interest to the Jan. 6 Select Committee after the committee obtained text messages she sent to then-chief of staff Mark Meadows urging him to work harder to overturn the 2020 election.

Patel had enjoyed an extraordinary rise from obscurity to power during the Trump era. Over the course of only a few years, he went from being a little-known Capitol Hill staffer to one of the most powerful figures in the U.S. national security apparatus.

He found favor with Trump by working for Devin Nunes when he played a central role in the GOP’s scrutiny of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Patel was the key author of a memo in which Nunes accused the Justice Department and the FBI of abusing surveillance laws as part of a politically motivated effort to take down Trump.

Some of Nunes’ and Patel’s criticisms of the DOJ’s actions were later validated by an inspector general, and Trump came to view Patel as one of his most loyal agents. He put him on his National Security Council and made him the Pentagon chief of staff.

In one astonishing but ill-fated plan, Trump had wanted to install Patel as either the deputy director of the CIA or the FBI late in his administration. He abandoned this only after vehement opposition and warnings from senior officials including Haspel and former Attorney General Bill Barr, who wrote in his own memoir that he told then-chief of staff Mark Meadows that Patel becoming deputy FBI director would happen “over my dead body.”

Never again would Trump acquiesce to such warnings. Patel has only grown closer to the former president since he left office. Over the past year, Patel has displayed enough confidence to leverage his fame as a Trump insider — establishing an online store selling self-branded merchandise with “K$H” baseball caps and “Fight With Kash” zip-up fleeces.

He hosts an online show and podcast, “Kash’s Corner,” and he is a prolific poster on Trump’s social media network, Truth Social. In May, Patel re-truthed (the Truth Social equivalent of re-tweeting) a meme of himself and special counsel John Durham “perp walking” a handcuffed Hillary Clinton.

He also set up the Kash Patel Legal Offense Trust to raise money to sue journalists. He recently authored an illustrated children’s book about the Russia investigation in which “King Donald” is a character persecuted by “Hillary Queenton and her shifty knight.” Trump characteristically gave it his imprimatur, declaring he wanted to “put this amazing book in every school in America.”

During that April 28 discussion at The Ben, Patel portrayed the national security establishment in Washington, D.C., as malevolently corrupt. He claimed the intelligence community had deliberately withheld important national security information from Trump.

According to two people in the room, Patel told the audience he had advised Trump to fire senior officials in the Justice Department and he lamented the appointments of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI director Christopher Wray. Paoletta also recounted to the audience instances in which Trump officials refused or slow-walked lawful directives because they disagreed with the former president’s policies.

Patel’s message to the audience was that things would be different next time. A source in the room said later the takeaway from the session was that if Trump took office in 2025, he would target agencies that conservatives have not traditionally viewed as adversarial.

Sources close to the former president said that he will — as a matter of top priority — go after the national security apparatus, “clean house” in the intelligence community and the State Department, target the “woke generals” at the Defense Department, and remove the top layers of the Justice Department and FBI.

A spokesperson for Patel, Erica Knight, did not dispute details from this scene at The Ben in West Palm Beach when Axios reached out for comment.

Regarding his other post-government activities, she said Patel wanted Axios to include this statement, in its entirety, in the story: “The fundraising focus has changed from the Kash Patel Legal Offense trust to the broader K$H foundation with an expanded mission of a variety of efforts including education, youth development projects, and veterans assistance. All money raised via K$H merchandise will benefit these great causes. The Kash Foundation is properly operating as a not-for-profit organization, has applied for tax exempt status, submitted the designation request to the IRS and is awaiting a designation.”

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Kash Foundation would likely be required to file detailed annual reports on its finances and activities with the IRS. But until that tax-exempt status is secured, it is difficult to know what Patel’s group — currently structured as a legal trust, Knight said — has raised financially or how it has spent its money. Knight declined to provide details on the group’s activity to date.

Later that day, at the Mar-a-Lago reception for CRA, Trump confirmed some of these impressions from Paoletta and Patel about his deep-rooted animosity toward top people in his administration. In a 45-minute speech, Trump rambled over a long list of grievances about his government, according to a witness.

He ridiculed his first Defense Secretary James Mattis, calling him “the most overrated general” in history, and added that a lot of the generals were overrated and should not be allowed to appear on television. Eventually, Trump asked the people who were holding up their iPhones to stop recording.

Trump saved his kindest words that night for two individuals: Mark Meadows and Russ Vought. He praised their organizations and the important work they were doing.

During the past year, Vought’s group has been developing plans that would benefit from Schedule F. And while the power rests largely on the fear factor to stifle civil service opposition to Trump, sources close to the former president said they still anticipate needing an alternate labor force of unprecedented scale — of perhaps as many as 10,000 vetted personnel — to give them the capacity to quickly replace “obstructionist” government officials with people committed to Trump and his “America First” agenda.

In other words, a new army of political partisans planted throughout the federal bureaucracy.

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