Project 2025: Inside Trump’s Ties to the Rightwing Policy Playbook

Rachel Leingang / Guardian UK

Trump has disavowed the manifesto, but his goals for civil service cuts, deportation and more show a shared vision

Donald Trump’s attempt to distance himself from Project 2025 after extreme comments from one of its leaders falls flat given the extensive Trump ties and similarities between the project’s policy ideas and the former president’s platform.

On Truth Social last week, Trump claimed to “know nothing about Project 2025” and have “no idea who is behind it”. The disavowal from Trump came after Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, said: “We are in the process of the second American revolution, which will remain bloodless, if the left allows it to be.”

Project 2025 is a Heritage Foundation effort to align the conservative movement behind policies that an incoming rightwing president should undertake. The far-reaching plan, which would upend the way the federal government operates, includes a lengthy manifesto and recruitment of potential staffers for a second Trump administration.

Trump’s comments show that an alignment with the project could hurt him with key voters and that he doesn’t appreciate being seen as someone who could be controlled by an outside group.

But, in reality, Trump and Project 2025 share the same vision for where the US should go in a conservative presidency. His platform, dubbed Agenda 47, overlaps with Project 2025 on most major policy issues. Project 2025 often includes more details on how some key conservative goals could be carried out, offering the meat for Trumpian policy ideas often delivered as soundbites.

As the Guardian has reported, Project 2025 wants to gut civil service, putting far more roles in federal government in the hands of a president as political appointees, which would erode checks and balances. Trump, for his part, tried to do the same in 2020 shortly before losing the election, an idea known as “Schedule F”.

Project 2025 proposes mass deportations of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants and stringent rules on migrants. So does Trump, and so does the Republican National Committee’s platform.

Trump wants to get rid of the federal education department, as does Project 2025, echoing a long-held policy wish on the right. The project details how this could happen and other ways to give states more control over education, at the potential expense of students. Both Trump and the project share goals of limiting LGBTQ+ rights and diversity initiatives in schools.

Trump often rails against cities run by Democrats, especially Washington DC, and talks about ways to crack down on them, renewing the idea he attempted in his first term to withhold federal funds as a way to enforce immigration policies. Project 2025 has some ideas on how he could do that more forcefully next time.

Since the project was announced in 2023, people have questioned whether Trump would actually do any of it. In some areas, like abortion, the project, rooted in Christian conservatism, goes farther than Trump has indicated in recent months. But on the bulk of the issues, the project simply presents rightwing, at times far-right, consensus, albeit with much more detail than normally released to the public.

Beyond the policy goals, the people behind the project are certainly in Trump’s orbit. This is not a shadowy group of people – the publicly available manifesto includes named authors, editors and contributors throughout.

Roberts, the Heritage leader, has said he met with Trump several times and they were friendly. Trump gave the signature speech at a Heritage conference after Roberts took over the foundation. When Roberts was tapped for the role, Trump said he would be “so incredible” and “outstanding”.

Paul Dans and Steven Groves co-edited the project, which includes chapters on federal agencies written by former Trump officials, allies or other conservative experts. Both Dans and Groves served in multiple roles in the Trump administration. Another big contributor to the project is Russ Vought, who Trump appointed as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

All told, journalist Judd Legum documented how 31 of the 38 people who helped write or edit the project served in some manner in Trump’s administration or transition.

In recent weeks, Democrats have latched on to Project 2025, putting out explainers about how the project would impact voters in hopes of showing the dangers of an incoming Trump presidency. The Biden campaign made a webpage detailing what Project 2025 proposes, and campaign social media accounts have repeatedly been drawing attention to its goals. Actress Taraji P Henson gave the project’s impacts a further boost by warning about it at the BET awards.

Trump’s campaign has repeatedly tried to move away from the project, telling the media he isn’t privy to it. And Project 2025 and Roberts have also repeatedly said their work isn’t tailored for any specific person. The Trump campaign told Semafor recently that it wouldn’t be taking references for future political appointees from the project.

In a statement after Trump’s effort at distancing, a project spokesperson again noted how they have repeatedly said they aren’t speaking for any specific candidate and that “it is ultimately up to that president, who we believe will be President Trump, to decide which recommendations to implement.”