What is Project 2025? What to know about the conservative plan


Washington — Voters in recent weeks have begun to hear the name “Project 2025” invoked more and more by President Biden and Democrats, as they seek to sound the alarm about what could be in store if former President Donald Trump wins a second term in the White House.

Overseen by the conservative Heritage Foundation, the multi-pronged initiative includes a detailed blueprint for the next Republican president to usher in a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch.

Trump and his campaign have worked to distance themselves from Project 2025, with the former president going so far as to call some of the proposals “abysmal.” But Democrats have continued to tie the transition project to Trump, especially as they find themselves mired in their own controversy over whether Mr. Biden should withdraw from the 2024 presidential contest following his startling debate performance last month.

Here is what to know about Project 2025:

What is Project 2025?

Project 2025 is a proposed presidential transition project that is composed of four pillars: a policy guide for the next presidential administration; a LinkedIn-style database of personnel who could serve in the next administration; training for that pool of candidates dubbed the “Presidential Administration Academy;” and a playbook of actions to be taken within the first 180 days in office.

It is led by two former Trump administration officials: Paul Dans, who was chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management and serves as director of the project, and Spencer Chretien, former special assistant to Trump and now the project’s associate director.

Project 2025 is spearheaded by the Heritage Foundation, but includes an advisory board consisting of more than 100 conservative groups.

Much of the focus on — and criticism of — Project 2025 involves its first pillar, the nearly 900-page policy book that lays out an overhaul of the federal government. Called “Mandate for Leadership 2025: The Conservative Promise,” the book builds on a “Mandate for Leadership” first published in January 1981, which sought to serve as a roadmap for Ronald Reagan’s incoming administration.

The recommendations outlined in the sprawling plan reach every corner of the executive branch, from the Executive Office of the President to the Department of Homeland Security to the little-known Export-Import Bank. 

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with advisers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D,C., on June 25, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with advisers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D,C., on June 25, 2019.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images


The Heritage Foundation also created a “Mandate for Leadership” in 2015 ahead of Trump’s first term. Two years into his presidency, it touted that Trump had instituted 64% of its policy recommendations, ranging from leaving the Paris Climate Accords, increasing military spending, and increasing off-shore drilling and developing federal lands. In July 2020, the Heritage Foundation gave its updated version of the book to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. 

The authors of many chapters are familiar names from the Trump administration, such as Russ Vought, who led the Office of Management and Budget; former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller; and Roger Severino, who was director of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Vought is the policy director for the 2024 Republican National Committee’s platform committee, which released its proposed platform on Monday. 

John McEntee, former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office under Trump, is a senior advisor to the Heritage Foundation, and said that the group will “integrate a lot of our work” with the Trump campaign when the official transition efforts are announced in the next few months.

Candidates interested in applying for the Heritage Foundation’s “Presidential Personnel Database” are vetted on a number of political stances, such as whether they agree or disagree with statements like “life has a right to legal protection from conception to natural death,” and “the President should be able to advance his/her agenda through the bureaucracy without hindrance from unelected federal officials.”

The contributions from ex-Trump administration officials have led its critics to tie Project 2025 to his reelection campaign, though the former president has attempted to distance himself from the initiative.

What’s in the Project 2025 policy agenda?

Some of the policies in the Project 2025 agenda have been discussed by Republicans for years or pushed by Trump himself: less federal intervention in education and more support for school choice; work requirements for able-bodied, childless adults on food stamps; and a secure border with increased enforcement of immigration laws, mass deportations and construction of a border wall. 

But others have come under scrutiny in part because of the current political landscape. 

Abortion and social issues

In recommendations for the Department of Health and Human Services, the agenda calls for the Food and Drug Administration to reverse its 24-year-old approval of the widely used abortion pill mifepristone. Other proposed actions targeting medication abortion include reinstating more stringent rules for mifepristone’s use, which would permit it to be taken up to seven weeks into a pregnancy, instead of the current 10 weeks, and requiring it to be dispensed in-person instead of through the mail.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that is on the Project 2025 advisory board, was involved in a legal challenge to mifepristone’s 2000 approval and more recent actions from the FDA that made it easier to obtain. But the Supreme Court rejected the case brought by a group of anti-abortion rights doctors and medical associations on procedural grounds.

The policy book also recommends the Justice Department enforce the Comstock Act against providers and distributors of abortion pills. That 1873 law prohibits drugs, medicines or instruments used in abortions from being sent through the mail.

US-NEWS-SCOTUS-ABORTION-PILL-NEWSOM-TB
Mifepristone and Misoprostol pills. 

Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images


Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the volume states that the Justice Department “in the next conservative administration should therefore announce its intent to enforce federal law against providers and distributors of such pills.”

The guide recommends the next secretary of Health and Human Services get rid of the Reproductive Healthcare Access Task Force established by the Biden administration before Roe’s reversal and create a “pro-life task force to ensure that all of the department’s divisions seek to use their authority to promote the life and health of women and their unborn children.”

In a section titled “The Family Agenda,” the proposal recommends the Health and Human Services chief “proudly state that men and women are biological realities,” and that “married men and women are the ideal, natural family structure because all children have a right to be raised by the men and women who conceived them.

Further, a program within the Health and Human Services Department should “maintain a biblically based, social science-reinforced definition of marriage and family.”

During his first four years in office, Trump banned transgender people from serving in the military. Mr. Biden reversed that policy, but the Project 2025 policy book calls for the ban to be reinstated.

Targeting federal agencies, employees and policies

The agenda takes aim at longstanding federal agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. The agency is a component of the Commerce Department and the policy guide calls for it to be downsized. 

NOAA’s six offices, including the National Weather Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, “form a colossal operation that has become one of the main drivers of the climate change alarm industry and, as such, is harmful to future U.S. prosperity,” the guide states. 

The Department of Homeland Security, established in 2002, should be dismantled and its agencies either combined with others, or moved under the purview of other departments altogether, the policy book states. For example, immigration-related entities from the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Health and Human Services should form a standalone, Cabinet-level border and immigration agency staffed by more than 100,000 employees, according to the agenda.

The Department of Homeland Security logo is seen on a law enforcement vehicle in Washington on March 7, 2017.
The Department of Homeland Security logo is seen on a law enforcement vehicle in Washington on March 7, 2017.

Getty Images


If the policy recommendations are implemented, another federal agency that could come under the knife by the next administration, with action from Congress, is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The agenda seeks to bring a push by conservatives to target diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, initiatives in higher education to the executive branch by wiping away a slew of DEI-related positions, policies and programs and calling for the elimination of funding for partners that promote DEI practices.

It states that U.S. Agency for International Development staff and grantees that “engage in ideological agitation on behalf of the DEI agenda” should be terminated. At the Treasury Department, the guide says the next administration should “treat the participation in any critical race theory or DEI initiative without objecting on constitutional or moral grounds, as per se grounds for termination of employment.”

The Project 2025 policy book also takes aim at more innocuous functions of government. It calls for the next presidential administration to eliminate or reform the dietary guidelines that have been published by the Department of Agriculture for more than 40 years, which the authors claim have been “infiltrated” by issues like climate change and sustainability.

Immigration

Trump made immigration a cornerstone of his last two presidential runs and has continued to hammer the issue during his 2024 campaign. Project 2025’s agenda not only recommends finishing the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but urges the next administration to “take a creative and aggressive approach” to responding to drug cartels at the border. This approach includes using active-duty military personnel and the National Guard to help with arrest operations along the southern border.

A memo from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that prohibits enforcement actions from taking place at “sensitive” places like schools, playgrounds and churches should be rolled back, the policy guide states. 

When the Homeland Security secretary determines there is an “actual or anticipated mass migration of aliens” that presents “urgent circumstances” warranting a federal response, the agenda says the secretary can make rules and regulations, including through their expulsion, for as long as necessary. These rules, the guide states, aren’t subject to the Administration Procedure Act, which governs the agency rule-making process.

What do Trump and his advisers say about Project 2025?

In a post to his social media platform Friday, Trump wrote, “I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. 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.”

Trump’s pushback to the initiative came after Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts said in a podcast interview that the nation is “in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

But even before Roberts’ comments during “The War Room” podcast — typically hosted by conservative commentator Steve Bannon, who reported to federal prison to begin serving a four-month sentence last week — Trump’s top campaign advisers have stressed that Project 2025 has no official ties to his reelection bid.

Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, senior advisers to the Trump campaign, said in a November statement that 2024 policy announcements will be made by Trump or his campaign team.

“Any personnel lists, policy agendas, or government plans published anywhere are merely suggestions,” they said.

While the efforts by outside organizations are “appreciated,” Wiles and LaCivita said, “none of these groups or individuals speak for President Trump or his campaign.”

In response to Trump’s post last week, Project 2025 reiterated that it was separate from the Trump campaign.

“As we’ve been saying for more than two years now, Project 2025 does not speak for any candidate or campaign. We are a coalition of more than 110 conservative groups advocating policy & personnel recommendations for the next conservative president. But it is ultimately up to that president, who we believe will be President Trump, to decide which recommendations to implement,” a statement on the project’s X account said.

What do Democrats say?

Despite their attempts to keep some distance from Project 2025, Democrats continue to connect Trump with the transition effort. The Biden-Harris campaign frequently posts about the project on X, tying it to a second Trump term.

Mr. Biden himself accused his Republican opponent of lying about his connections to the Project 2025 agenda, saying in a statement that the agenda was written for Trump and “should scare every single American.”

Congressional Democrats have also begun pivoting to Project 2025 when asked in interviews about Mr. Biden’s fitness for a second term following his lackluster showing at the June 27 debate, the first in which he went head-to-head with Trump.

“Trump is all about Project 2025,” Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman told CNN on Monday. “I mean, that’s what we really should be voting on right now. It’s like, do we want the kind of president that is all about Project ’25?”

In a statement reiterating her support for Mr. Biden, Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida called Project 2025 “MAGA Republicans’ draconian 920-page plan to end U.S. democracy, give handouts to the wealthy and strip Americans of their freedoms.”

What are Republicans saying about Project 2025?

Two GOP senators under consideration to serve as Trump’s running mate sought to put space between the White House hopeful and Project 2025, casting it as merely the product of a think tank that puts forth ideas.

“It’s the work of a think tank, of a center-right think tank, and that’s what think tanks do,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

He said Trump’s message to voters focuses on “restoring common sense, working-class values, and making our decisions on the basis of that.”

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance raised a similar sentiment in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying organizations will have good ideas and bad ideas.

“It’s a 900-page document,” he said Sunday. “I guarantee there are things that Trump likes and dislikes about that 900-page document. But he is the person who will determine the agenda of the next administration.”



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