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Trump’s Most Unhinged Plans for His Second Term

Photo: MATTHEW HATCHER/AFP via Getty Images

Perhaps, like me, every time you see a poll showing Donald Trump winning the 2024 presidential race you comfort yourself with the thought that you already survived his first administration. How bad could a second Trump term really be?

As it turns out, pretty bad! He has been releasing policy papers and videos on what he calls “Agenda 47” for months, and he and his advisers are openly bragging about their radical plans for a second term. Some of the worst elements of Trump’s first-term agenda were thwarted by scrupulous government officials, legal challenges, and the Trump team’s general ineptitude. But the former president and his well-funded allies in the conservative movement are already working to make sure they’ll be more successful if he winds up back in the White House.

Many of Trump’s proposals for his second term are surprisingly extreme, draconian, and weird, even for him. Here’s a running list of his most unhinged plans.

Give the president unchecked power over federal agencies

Today, most of us take for granted that presidents don’t micromanage departments they oversee, allowing them to figure out the finer details of running the biggest institution in the country. But in a policy video released in 2023, Trump said he plans to change that:

I will bring the independent regulatory agencies, such as the FCC and the FTC, back under presidential authority, as the Constitution demands. These agencies do not get to become a fourth branch of government, issuing rules and edicts all by themselves. And that’s what they’ve been doing. We will require that they submit any regulations they are considering for White House review.

Trump has repeatedly made it clear that he thinks the president should generally be able to do whatever he wants. It seems this belief is rooted in his personal sense of entitlement, not any coherent theory on how the U.S. government should be structured. But as the New York Times explained in July 2023, Trump’s narcissistic tendencies happen to dovetail with conservative legal thinkers’ decades-long effort to fundamentally reshape the federal government by putting independent agencies under the president’s control:

Its legal underpinning is a maximalist version of the so-called unitary executive theory.

The legal theory rejects the idea that the government is composed of three separate branches with overlapping powers to check and balance each other. Instead, the theory’s adherents argue that Article 2 of the Constitution gives the president complete control of the executive branch, so Congress cannot empower agency heads to make decisions or restrict the president’s ability to fire them. Reagan administration lawyers developed the theory as they sought to advance a deregulatory agenda.

Restore the president’s authority to bypass Congress

Part of Trump’s grand vision for an imperial presidency involves reclaiming the president’s impoundment power, which Richard Nixon gave up in 1974. Without getting into the weeds on the origins of the U.S. budget process, this basically means Trump plans to refuse to spend certain congressional appropriations, thus giving himself the power to starve any government programs he doesn’t care for.

Appoint a special prosecutor to ‘go after’ Biden

Hours after he was indicted on 37 criminal counts for allegedly mishandling classified documents in July, Trump took to Truth Social to announce his plan to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Joe Biden and the “entire Biden crime family.”

Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, already has two Trump-appointed special prosecutors investigating Biden’s handling of classified documents and his son Hunter’s financial dealings. But apparently, they are not “real” because their goal is conducting actual investigations not finding any excuse to charge the Bidens.

Trump has been pretty clear that his goal is getting vengeance against Biden, even if it isn’t legally justified.

“This is third-world-country stuff, ‘arrest your opponent,’” Trump said at a New Hampshire campaign stop in October. “And that means I can do that, too.”

Use the Justice Department to get revenge on all of his enemies

Trump’s revenge fantasy goes far beyond siccing the Justice Department on the Bidens. The Washington Post reported that Trump and his allies have been drawing up specific plans to punish his critics via investigations:

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.

John Kelly, a former Trump White House chief of staff, told the paper that he fully expects Trump to target him if reelected, as he’d frequently suggest using the DOJ to persecute his enemies in his first term. “There is no question in my mind he is going to go after people that have turned on him,” he said.

Purge the civil service

Despite his promises to “drain the swamp” Trump only made his move to purge the federal workforce by creating a new “Schedule F” employment category in October 2020. The idea was to redesignate as many as 50,000 civil servants as political appointees, then fire anyone deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump.

Schedule F was never implemented, as Biden quickly revoked Trump’s executive order. But Trump plans to immediately reimpose Schedule F in his second term, allowing him to fire tens of thousands of career servants. Though, Team Trump told Axios they don’t think they’ll have to totally gut the federal government to achieve their goal of scaring people into submission:

Trump’s allies claim … they will not have to fire anything close to 50,000 federal workers to achieve the result, as one source put it, of “behavior change.” Firing a smaller segment of “bad apples” among the career officials at each agency would have the desired chilling effect on others tempted to obstruct Trump’s orders.

Install thousands of loyalists throughout the federal government

So what if the MAGA purge does require firing thousands of federal workers? Trump and his allies have a plan for that: They’re already vetting loyalists to replace career civil servants throughout the government.

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 is collecting resumes online for its “2025 Presidential Transition Project Talent Database.” Its website says that “With the right conservative policy recommendations and properly vetted and trained personnel to implement them, we will take back our government.” Axios reported on what the screening process entails:

The most elaborate part of the pre-transition machine is a résumé-collection project that drills down more on political philosophy than on experience, education or other credentials.

• Applicants are asked to “name one person, past or present, who has most influenced the development of your political philosophy” — and to do the same with a book.

• Another query: “Name one living public policy figure whom you greatly admire and why.”

… We’re told immense, intense attention will be given to the social-media histories of anyone being considered for top jobs. Those queasy about testing the limits of Trump’s power will get flagged and rejected.

Heritage said Project 2025 is candidate-agnostic, meaning its thousands of applicants could serve in any Republican administration, not just a second Trump term. The organization said in a statement: “Our goal is to recruit 20,000 people to serve in the next administration. We are proud to welcome conservatives of all different backgrounds and experiences to Project 2025 and we are already seeing those trends in our database.”

Round up, detain, and deport millions of undocumented immigrants

While Trump talked about mass deportations during his 2016 campaign he only managed to expel several hundred thousand people per year, which is similar to the number of deportations during other recent administrations. Now he’s making plans to enact mass deportations on a scale never seen in this country, with the goal of booting out millions of people each year.

This would involve scouring the country for undocumented immigrants — including people who have lived in the U.S. for many years — detaining them in massive new camps, and swiftly deporting them, as the New York Times reported:

To help speed mass deportations, Mr. Trump is preparing an enormous expansion of a form of removal that does not require due process hearings. To help Immigration and Customs Enforcement carry out sweeping raids, he plans to reassign other federal agents and deputize local police officers and National Guard soldiers voluntarily contributed by Republican-run states.

To ease the strain on ICE detention facilities, Mr. Trump wants to build huge camps to detain people while their cases are processed and they await deportation flights. And to get around any refusal by Congress to appropriate the necessary funds, Mr. Trump would redirect money in the military budget, as he did in his first term to spend more on a border wall than Congress had authorized.

Former Trump aide Stephen Miller bragged about these plans to the Times, describing them as a “blitz” designed to be enacted without the need for any substantive new legislation.

“Any activists who doubt President Trump’s resolve in the slightest are making a drastic error: Trump will unleash the vast arsenal of federal powers to implement the most spectacular migration crackdown,” Miller said. “The immigration legal activists won’t know what’s happening.”

Construct ‘Freedom Cities’

Trump released a video in March 2023 announcing his plan to hold a nationwide contest to design and develop ten new “Freedom Cities” to be constructed on federal land.

“In other words, we’ll actually build new cities in our country again,” Trump said. “These Freedom Cities will reopen the frontier, reignite American imagination, and give hundreds of thousands of young people and other people, all hardworking families, a new shot at home ownership and in fact, the American Dream.”

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with investing in urban areas or making it easier to buy a home. But as economist Richard McGahey explained in Forbes, “Waving a magic wand isn’t how cities develop.” Plans released by the Trump campaign offer no further detail on how this massive undertaking would work. It’s almost like Trump is pitching the idea solely because the term “Freedom Cities” sounds cool.

Put flying cars in Americans’ driveways

How will Americans get around in these “Freedom Cities”? Flying cars, of course.

“Dozens of major companies in the U.S. and China are racing to develop vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles for families and individuals,” Trump said in the same March 2023 video. “Just as the United States led the automotive revolution in the last century, I want to ensure that America, not China, leads this revolution in air mobility. These breakthroughs can transform commerce, bring a giant infusion of wealth into rural America, and connect families and our country in new ways.”

It’s true that such vehicles are in development, but it does not seem that they’re going to be widely available to families and individuals anytime soon — or maybe ever. Trump’s frenemy Elon Musk, who’s no stranger to zany proposals, dismissed the idea back in 2017, saying, “It’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Heritage Foundation is recruiting candidates to serve in Trump’s second term. Project 2025 is not a candidate-specific effort.

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Trump’s Most Unhinged Plans for His Second Term