Will ultra-conservative Project 2025 help Trump to power or prove ‘assault on democracy’?

Donald Trump, wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap, at a campaign rally in Florida on July 9
Donald Trump's campaign sees Project 2025 as something resembling a political hand grenade and has disowned its proposals - Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America

Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, has told supporters an ultra-conservative instruction manual that could underpin Donald Trump’s second term is an “assault on democracy”.

The Biden-Harris campaign, weakened by growing questions over the president’s age and mental agility, are attempting to shift the discourse in US politics to a 922-page document setting out proposals for Trump’s second stint in the White House, dubbed Project 2025.

“Google Project 2025,” Mr Biden wrote on X, formerly Twitter, this week.

One surrogate has vowed to bring up the topic “every single day”. The Biden team fired off 30 press memos about it in the fortnight after the debate – seven of them on Tuesday alone.

Trump has professed ignorance towards the document, despite many of its proposals matching his own priorities. The document mentions him by name several hundred times.

Ms Harris told a rally on Tuesday that Project 2025 will cut social security, remove the price cap on insulin and abolish the department of education.

But most worryingly, Ms Harris told supporters: “If implemented this plan will be the latest attack in Donald Trump’s full-on assault on reproductive freedom.”

Abortion access would be further restricted and limits on birth control introduced, she added.

The Heritage Foundation, the think tank behind the project, says that it paves the way for an “effective conservative administration” and prises the country from the hands of the “radical Left”.

The think tank, which is among the most influential in the world, has accused the Biden camp of scaremongering about the project through “unserious, mistake-riddled” press releases.

Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, speaks during a campaign event in Las Vegas on July 9
Kamala Harris told a rally on Tuesday that, among other things, Project 2025 abolish the department of education - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America

Kevin Roberts, the foundation’s president, believes it will be part of a transformation of US politics.

“We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless – if the Left allows it to be,” he said this week.

Project 2025 is ostensibly set up to help Trump, should he reclaim the White House, and his campaign sees it as something resembling a political hand grenade and has repeatedly disowned its proposals.

In several key areas, the document echoes positions that Trump has set out in the past and outlines how he could implement them as president.

It proposes mass deportations of more than 11 million illegal immigrants, Trump has pledged to carry out “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history”.

It proposes giving the executive power to sack thousands of civil servants in favour of political appointees – a move Trump ordered but did not have time to usher in before leaving office.

And it proposes bringing the justice department and FBI under the president’s control. Trump has called for both to be “defunded” following his criminal indictments, and said he would weaponise them against political rivals.

In other areas, however, the sprawling policy document goes well beyond Trump’s publicly stated views.

As referenced by Ms Harris, the document endorses limiting access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Florida on July 9
Trump was forced to furiously backpedal earlier this year when he appeared to be considering cuts to Medicare - Brian Snyder/REUTERS

The official Republican platform, released this week, omitted a national abortion ban as an ambition for the first time in 40 years.

At 16 pages long, the document – a quarter of the length of the 2016 iteration– shows the party is keen to keep the focus on Mr Biden’s perceived failings rather than contentious policy moves.

Project 2025 also calls for limits to be placed on Medicare claims, to “disincentivise permanent dependence” on the health insurance programme among over-65s.

Trump was forced to furiously backpedal earlier this year when he appeared to be considering cuts to Medicare. The newly released Republican platform vowed to maintain current levels of spending – softening another long standing position.

The former president tried to distance himself from Project 2025 this month, claiming: “I have no idea who is behind it.”

He wrote on his Truth Social platform: “I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

‘Presidential transition academy’

However, those behind Project 2025 have floated in and out of Trump orbit over the last eight years.

The director is Paul Dans, who served in the Office of Personnel Management during Trump’s term in the White House. The document was co-edited by Steven Groves, who spent three years in the administration, while Spencer Chretien, the former special assistant to the president, is the project’s associate director.

One chapter was authored by Russ Vought, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. Earlier this year, Trump named Mr Vought as policy director to craft the Republican party platform ahead of its national convention.

Ed Martin, the platform’s deputy policy director, leads a conservative pressure group listed on the Project 2025 advisory board.

Stephen Miller, a longtime Trump adviser, is the president of America First Legal, which also advises the project, and appears on a video promoting its “presidential transition academy”.

Ben Carson, Trump’s former housing secretary; Peter Navarro, the former White House trade adviser; and Mark Meadows, Trump’s final chief of staff, are all involved in the project.

In total, 31 authors and editors of Project 2025 were Trump administration officials, according to the Biden campaign.

It is rare for dense policy documents to loom large in a presidential race, where soundbites and slogans are the weapon of choice for campaigns. But Democrats are hoping that its 900-plus pages contain enough ammunition to take down Trump.

Its authors want Project 2025 to set out a roadmap for a second Trump presidency and show him how to grasp the levers of power in the White House. In reality, it could hinder him getting there.

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