You are here

Dictator Trump--Part 3: Project 2025 and Donald Trump's Thirst For Revenge

Submitted by Robin Messing on Wed, 01/03/2024 - 5:25pm

The takeaway from my last column is simple, but horrific: Donald Trump wants to become a dictator for the purpose of revenge. But how will do this? How will he expand the already awesome power of the presidency? This story by the Washington Post provides part of the answer.

Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.

In private, Trump has told advisers and friends in recent months that he wants the Justice Department to investigate onetime officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office, including his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and former attorney general William P. Barr, as well as his ex-attorney Ty Cobb and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to people who have talked to him, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump has also talked of prosecuting officials at the FBI and Justice Department, a person familiar with the matter said.

In public, Trump has vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” President Biden and his family. The former president has frequently made corruption accusations against them that are not supported by available evidence.

To facilitate Trump’s ability to direct Justice Department actions, his associates have been drafting plans to dispense with 50 years of policy and practice intended to shield criminal prosecutions from political considerations. Critics have called such ideas dangerous and unconstitutional.

“It would resemble a banana republic if people came into office and started going after their opponents willy-nilly,” said Saikrishna Prakash, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia who studies executive power. “It’s hardly something we should aspire to.”

Much of the planning for a second term has been unofficially outsourced to a partnership of right-wing think tanks in Washington. Dubbed “Project 2025,” the group is developing a plan, to include draft executive orders, that would deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act, according to a person involved in those conversations and internal communications reviewed by The Washington Post. The law, last updated in 1871, authorizes the president to deploy the military for domestic law enforcement.. . .

Rod J. Rosenstein, the Trump-appointed deputy attorney general who oversaw the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election, said a politically ordered prosecution would violate the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under law and could cause judges to dismiss the charges. That constitutional defense has rarely been raised in U.S. history, Rosenstein said.

“Making prosecutorial decisions in a nonpartisan manner is essential to democracy,” Rosenstein said. “The White House should not be meddling in individual cases for political reasons.” . . .

As president, [Trump's former Chief of Staff John] Kelly said, Trump would often suggest prosecuting his political enemies, or at least having the FBI investigate them. Kelly said he would not pass along the requests to the Justice Department but would alert the White House Counsel’s Office. Usually, they would ignore the orders, he said, and wait for Trump to move on. In a second term, Trump’s aides could respond to such requests differently, he said.

“The lesson the former president learned from his first term is don’t put guys like me … in those jobs,” Kelly said. “The lesson he learned was to find sycophants.” . . .

In one conversation described in the federal indictment, a deputy White House counsel warned [Jeffrey] Clark that Trump’s refusing to leave office would lead to “riots in every major city.” Clark responded, according to the indictment, “That’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.” [Jeffrey Clark was a former DOJ official and possibly his future Attorney General if Trump wins in 2024.] . . .

There is a heated debate in conservative legal circles about how to interact with Trump as the likely nominee. Many in Trump’s circle have disparaged what they view as institutionalist Republican lawyers, particularly those associated with the Federalist Society. Some Trump advisers consider these individuals too soft and accommodating to make the kind of changes within agencies that they want to see happen in a second Trump administration.

Trump has told advisers that he is looking for lawyers who are loyal to him to serve in a second term — complaining about his White House Counsel’s Office unwillingness to go along with some of his ideas in his first term or help him in his bid to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

 

To be fair, Project 2025 is not set in stone. And there was a key denial to this story. The Washington Post further reported.

 

Project 2025 comprises 75 groups in a collaboration organized by the Heritage Foundation. . . .

After online publication of this story, Rob Bluey, a Heritage spokesman, said: “There are no plans within Project 2025 related to the Insurrection Act or targeting political enemies.” 

 

Whether you believe Bluey's denial is up to you. But keep in mind, the Washington Post story fleshes out a story published a few months earlier in the New York Times that I cited when I discussed the dangers of an imperial presidency. Here is a small excerpt from that article, but if you have a subscription to the Times then I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Mr. Trump intends to bring independent agencies — like the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies, and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces various antitrust and other consumer protection rules against businesses — under direct presidential control.

 

He wants to revive the practice of “impounding” funds, refusing to spend money Congress has appropriated for programs a president doesn’t like — a tactic that lawmakers banned under President Richard Nixon.

He intends to strip employment protections from tens of thousands of career civil servants, making it easier to replace them if they are deemed obstacles to his agenda. And he plans to scour the intelligence agencies, the State Department and the defense bureaucracies to remove officials he has vilified as “the sick political class that hates our country.”. . . .

“What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them,” said Russell T. Vought, who ran the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump White House and now runs a policy organization, the Center for Renewing America. . .  .

 

Now, take a look at this message that Trump posted on Truth Social and decide if he's the type of person who would want to abuse the Insurrection Act to declare martial law against protesters.

Vermin???? Did Trump just compare his opponents to Verimin? Just in case you think Trump didn't really mean this, he repeated his pledge to root out the vermin during one of his rallies.

 

YIKES!!! Trump referred to his political enemies as vermin and said that “The threat from outside forces” are “far less sinister, dangerous, and grave, than the threat from within.” As J.D. Wolf and Brett Meiselas of the Meidas Touch Network point out, this is the type of dehumanizing language that Hitler used to prepare the German population to accept unspeakable atrocities.

 

Like Trump, Adolf Hitler infamously targeted the "enemies within" Germany, chiefly singling out communists and Jews. History.com recounts, "[Hitler] was appalled by Germany’s defeat [in WW1], which he blamed on “enemies within”–chiefly German communists and Jews–and was enraged by the punitive peace settlement forced on Germany by the victorious Allies.

 

Regarding his strategy at the time, Hitler noted, "Our strategy is to destroy the enemy from within, to conquer him through himself."

Hitler and the Nazis, like Trump, also compared the "enemies within" Germany to vermin.

The Jewish Daily Bulletin from February 15, 1933 ran a header stating, "Nazi Leader Would Rid Germany of 'Jewish Vermin'"

Do we dare risk even a 10% chance that Trump could implement Project 2025? Fred Wellman, an Iraqi War veteran and host of the On Democracy podcast, talks about what Project 2025 would mean for America.

 

Wellman laments at the end of the video that the media is so obsessed about the horse race between Biden and Trump that they are not talking about what is at stake if Trump wins. And he is right to worry about this. If Trump win this horse race, he is going to kill the horses. Democracy will be over. There will be no more horse races. America as we know it will be dead.

Margaret Sullivan agrees with Wellman. The mainstream media needs to sound the alarm to alert the American people to how dangerous a second Trump presidency will be. She writes in the Guardian:

Here’s what must be hammered home: Trump cannot be re-elected if you want the United States to be a place where elections decide outcomes, where voting rights matter, and where politicians don’t baselessly prosecute their adversaries.

Sullivan concludes her column with sound advice for the press.

Every news organization should be reporting on this with far more vigor – and repetition – than they do about Biden being 80 years old.

 

It’s the media’s responsibility to grab American voters by the lapels, not just to nod to the topic politely from time to time. . . .

So what can the press do differently? Here are a few suggestions.

Report more – much more – about what Trump would do, post-election. Ask voters directly whether they are comfortable with those plans, and report on that. Display these stories prominently, and then do it again soon.

Use direct language, not couched in scaredy-cat false equivalence, about the dangers of a second Trump presidency.

Pin down Republicans about whether they support Trump’s lies and autocratic plans, as ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos did in grilling the House majority leader Steve Scalise about whether the 2020 election was stolen. He pushed relentlessly, finally saying: “I just want an answer to the question, yes or no?” When Scalise kept sidestepping, Stephanopoulos soon cut off the interview.

Maybe someone at The Washington Post read Sullivan's column. The next day they ran a story with the headline, "Trump calls political enemies ‘vermin,’ echoing dictators Hitler, Mussolini." The story carried this fun little detail.

“Trump is also using projection: note that he mentions all kinds of authoritarians ‘communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left’ to set himself up as the deliverer of freedom,” Ben-Ghiat said. “Mussolini promised freedom to his people too and then declared dictatorship.”

 

Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, told The Post “those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.”

Cheung later clarified that he meant to say their “sad, miserable existence" instead of their “entire existence.”

Way to reassure us that Trump doesn't want to become a fascist dictator. And just in case anyone still questions whether revenge will be Trump's top priority after he becomes a dictator, Trump could not have made it clearer when he posted this word cloud to Truth Social.

 

Project 2025 will boost the power of the presidency, no matter which of the Republican candidates wins the nomination. These increased powers will be especially dangerous in Trump's hands. But there will still be some remnants of at least theoretical checks and balances on Trump even after Project 2025 is implemented. But what could give Trump the absolute power of a full-blown dictator? Why, a war, of course. I will discuss that next.


Update 2/4/25: I just added the paragraph in my quote from the Washington Post for clarity.  It is the paragraph that starts with, "Much of the planning for a second term has been unofficially outsourced to a partnership of right-wing think tanks in Washington. Dubbed 'Project 2025.' "

 

<---Previous: Trump Wants To Become A Dictator, And His Thirst For Power Could Lead To Civil War

Next: The Road To Dictatorship Will Be Paved Over The Bodies Of Minorities--->

Trump Will Become a Dictator--Introduction/Table of Contents