A Trump-like “wrecking ball” is now being recruited to shrink government and fire federal employees


WASHINGTON (AP) – With more than a year left to go 2024 electionsA constellation of conservative organizations is preparing for a potential second term for Donald Trump in the White House, recruiting thousands of Americans to come to Washington on a mission to dismantle the federal government and replace it with a vision closer to his own.

Led by the well-established Heritage Foundation and the Ex-supported research foundation trump For administration officials, the long-term effort is essentially a wait-and-see government for the former president — or whatever candidate aligns with their ideals and can defeat the president. Joe Biden In the year 2024.

With the roughly 1,000-page “Project 2025” handbook and “army” of Americans, the idea is to create civilian infrastructure on day one to control, remake, and dispose of what Republicans deride as the “deep state” bureaucracy. in part by firing up to 50,000 federal workers.

“We need to flood the region with conservatives,” said Paul Dance, director of the 2025 Presidential Transition Project and a former Trump administration official who speaks historically about the project.

“This is a clear invitation to come to Washington,” he said. “People need to put down their tools, step aside from their careers and say, ‘This is my moment of service in my life.'”

These unprecedented efforts are coordinated with dozens of right-wing organizations, many of them new to Washington, and represent a changing approach from conservatives, who have traditionally sought to constrain the federal government through Cut federal taxes and cut federal spending.

Instead, Trump’s conservatives want to destroy the “managerial state” from within, by firing federal employees who they believe stand in the way of the president’s agenda and replacing them with like-minded officials more keen on a new executive approach to governance. .

The goal is to avoid the pitfalls of Trump’s early years in office, when the Republican president’s team was unprepared, and his team was unprepared. Cabinet candidates had difficulty winning Senate confirmation The policies have been met with resistance — from lawmakers, government workers and even Trump appointees who refused to bow Or it violates the protocol, or sometimes it violates the laws, to achieve its objectives.

While many of Project 2025’s proposals are inspired by Trump, these are echoed by Republican challengers Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, and are gaining ground among other Republicans.

And if Trump wins a second term, the work done by the Heritage Coalition ensures that the president will have the staff needed to continue his unfinished business in the White House.

“The president’s first day is going to be a wrecking ball for the administrative state,” said Ross Vought, a former Trump administration official involved in the effort who is now president of the conservative Center for Renewing America.

Much of the new president’s agenda would be accomplished by reinstating a so-called Schedule F — an executive order under Trump that would reclassify tens of thousands of the 2 million federal employees as at-will and more easily dismissable workers.

Biden rescinded the executive order when he took office in 2021, but Trump — and other presidential hopefuls — have now vowed to reinstate it.

“It scares me,” said Mary Jay, a professor of public administration at the University of Colorado, who warned that the idea would lead to a return to the political spoils system.

Experts say Schedule F would create chaos in the civil service, which was reformed during President Jimmy Carter’s administration in an effort to ensure a professional workforce and end political bias dating back to the 19th century.

As it stands, only 4,000 members of the federal workforce are political appointees, who usually change with each administration. But Schedule F could put tens of thousands of professional jobs at risk.

“We have a democracy that is at risk of suicide. Schedule F is just another bullet in the gun,” Jay said.

The ideas in Heritage Ready for the Table are ambitious and parochial, a mixture of longstanding conservative policies and the stark, eye-catching proposals that have made themselves famous under Trump.

There is an “overhaul” of the Justice Department, notably reducing its independence and ending the FBI’s efforts to combat the spread of disinformation. It calls for intensified prosecutions of anyone who provides or distributes abortion pills by mail.

There are proposals calling for the Pentagon to “cancele” its recent diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives, or what the project calls the “wake up” agenda, and reinstate service members laid off over refusal of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pages, chapter by chapter, provide a how-to guide for the next president, similar to the legacy book produced 50 years ago, before the Ronald Reagan administration. Authored by some of today’s most prominent thinkers in the conservative movement, it is often sprinkled with apocalyptic language.

A chapter written by Trump’s former acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security calls for an increase in the number of political appointees, and the redeployment of office staff with law enforcement capacity in the field to “maximize law enforcement capacity.”

And at the White House, the book suggests that the new administration should “reconsider” the tradition of providing workspace for press corps and ensuring White House Counsellor He is “firmly committed” to the president’s agenda.

Conservatives have long had a dim view of federal government offices, complaining that they are full of liberals bent on blocking Republican agendas.

But Doreen Greenwald, national president of the National Treasury Employees Association, said most federal employees live in the states and are your neighbors, family and friends. “Federal employees are not the enemy,” she said.

And while presidents typically rely on Congress to put policies into effect, the Legacy Project leans toward what legal scholars refer to as a unitary view of executive power that suggests the president has broad power to act alone.

To push senators trying to block presidential candidates, Project 2025 proposes appointing senior allies to acting administrative roles, as was done during the Trump administration, to bypass the Senate confirmation process.

John McEntee, another former Trump official who advised on the effort, said the next administration could “play it a little harder than we did with Congress.”

Indeed, Congress would see its role reduced – for example, with the proposal to eliminate congressional notification on some foreign arms sales.

There is a certain amount of “fantasy” about the president’s capabilities, said Philip Wallach, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who studies separation of powers and was not part of the Heritage Project.

“Some of these visions, they start to turn into a kind of authoritarian delusion where the president won the election, so he’s in charge, so everybody has to do what he says — and that’s not the system of government we live under,” he said.

In the heritage office, Dance has a faded picture on his wall of an earlier era in Washington, where the White House is almost alone in the city, dirt streets in all directions.

It is a picture of what conservatives have long desired, a smaller federal government.

The Heritage Coalition continues its recruitment efforts, touring America to fill federal jobs. They set up the Iowa State Fair this month and signed up hundreds of people, are building a database of potential employees, and inviting them to government operations training.

Dance admitted it was “counter-intuitive” – ​​the idea of ​​joining the government to cut back – but said it was the lesson from the Trump days about what was needed to “take back control”.

This article originally appeared on apnews.com

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