A Matured MAGA Movement Prepares For Trump’s Return To DC

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Friday, Feb 09, 2024 - 12:45 AM

Authored by Nathan Worcester and Janice Hisle via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

What would the start of a second Trump term look like—and what sort of opposition would it face?

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Getty Images, Shutterstock)

In search of answers, The Epoch Times interviewed veterans of the first Trump administration, reviewed writings from that time as well as the Trump campaign’s Agenda 47, and talked to those helping to provide a 2025 roadmap.

It seems the MAGA movement is now older, wiser, and better situated in Washington.

Preexisting conservative institutions such as The Heritage Foundation have tilted in former President Donald Trump’s direction. The former president will also have a deeper bench of possible appointees and real experience running the show. A more sympathetic Supreme Court and possible gains in Congress could also help him—and, unlike in 2016, the Republican establishment is consolidating behind his candidacy early in the primary season.

Yet many federal bureaucracies, legacy media organs, and other institutions can be counted on to put up resistance.

Additionally, the “sanctuary city” phenomenon—and, on the flip side, Republican states’ underreported solidarity with Texas in its battle with federal authorities over the border—offers a foretaste of how the Trump administration might clash with some cities, counties, and states during a second term.

And, as in the first term, neoconservatives, neoliberals, and other Washington non-neophytes who boast deep backgrounds in government but don’t share the MAGA vision may seek power for their own reasons.

During late 2016 and early 2017, the outsider whom Americans elevated to the presidency faced multiple challenges as he met with immediate and unprecedented hostility from the establishment, including scrutiny from the outgoing Obama administration and the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation before he was even elected.

President Trump is still marching into gale-force winds—and if he reaches the Oval Office, he will have little time for rest and almost no room for error.

The Americans who vote for him will demand the swift, efficient execution of MAGA agenda items that lay the groundwork for a lasting legacy—what Stephen Bannon described to The Epoch Times as the starting point for “50 years of MAGA policies.”

A woman takes a selfie before a campaign event with former President Donald Trump in Las Vegas on Jan. 27, 2024. (David Becker/Getty Images)

The 2nd Transition

If President Trump is elected on Nov. 5, he'll have until Inauguration Day—Jan. 20, 2025—to manage the transition from the Biden administration to a second Trump term.

The first Trump transition was rocky. President Trump came to Washington as an outsider after winning an election he was widely expected to lose.

New York City was the real estate mogul’s home turf, not “the swamp” along the Potomac River. He and a small group of loyalists were starting from scratch in what, to many of them, was a strange and hostile town.

We didn’t have a deep bench,” recalled Mr. Bannon, a member of the transition team in 2016 who later served as the White House’s chief strategist.

He [Trump] wasn’t versed in how Washington does business,” K.T. McFarland, a Trump administration deputy national security adviser who previously worked in multiple Republican presidential administrations, told The Epoch Times.

President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with President-elect Donald Trump following a meeting in the Oval Office in Washington on Nov. 10, 2016. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

While earlier presidents were comfortable recruiting from prior administrations in the same party, President Trump was hesitant to take in George W. Bush administration veterans, particularly in national security roles. According to Ms. McFarland, President Trump felt the Bush crew had failed on that score.

As evidence of how President Trump shook things up, she cited his call with the president of Taiwan during the transition period. Much of the establishment was aghast—but, on Ms. McFarland’s account, the president-elect recognized the country’s value as a trading partner.

In “The Fifth Risk,” journalist Michael Lewis depicts a chaotic transition period. One chapter opens by describing how Department of Energy staff members awaited a Trump team the day after the election, in line with prior administrations. Thirty parking spaces that were cleared for the victor remained vacant all day—the expected delegation never materialized.

At least some of Mr. Lewis’s sources are Obama political appointees who, a critic might note, count as less than impartial authorities on their political opponents. For instance, he quotes the department’s deputy secretary, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, who is now President Joe Biden’s homeland security adviser.

Lawyer Paul Dans said that although he wasn’t in the mix during the transition, he was “trying to knock on the door to get on the team.”

He said he had “a really hard time getting into the federal government” despite his prestigious credentials, which include multiple degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and stints at top law firms such as Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP (later bought out by Locke Lord).

Mr. Dans ultimately served in multiple roles in the Trump administration, including as chief of staff for the crucial Office of Personnel Management (OPM)—the human resources hub for each presidential administration and the federal government as a whole.

Paul Dans, director of Project 2025, at The Heritage Foundation's leadership summit in National Harbor, Md., on April 20, 2023. (Terri Wu/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Dans now leads The Heritage Foundation’s 2025 Presidential Transition Project, or Project 2025, a coalition of more than 90 conservative organizations seeking to line up the right people, policies, and priorities well ahead of any coming transition period. Project 2025 doesn’t officially endorse any presidential candidate.

Project 2025 partners include credible, experienced MAGA policy shops such as the Center for Renewing America, a think tank led by former Trump Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought. Stephen Miller’s America First Legal is another coalition member. The coalition’s playbook, “Mandate for Leadership,” is a hefty 920 pages.

The tome comes alongside other detailed instruction manuals for Republicans hoping to carry out a better presidential transition—for example, “Year Zero” by Chris Liddell, former White House deputy chief of staff under President Trump.

Mr. Dans’s own struggles hopping on the first “Trump train” have clearly influenced his thinking.

It was really important in my view that the next president—and I believe that will be President Trump—needs to be supported by a team who knows day one what the game plan is—that they’re brought in, and they’re trained, and they’re ready to go to work,” Mr. Dans told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Bannon spoke about filling out a new Washington “ecosystem” more in keeping President Trump and his priorities than what came before.

“You have a broad base of super-competent people that are thinking these ideas through in a self-organizing way and will be there if the president is so inclined, but even if they’re not selected, they become part of this very important ecosystem in Washington,” he said.

Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Donald Trump, arrives for a court appearance in New York on May 25, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Transition Teams

Mr. Dans described ideal candidates for the “army of conservatives” the project aims to train as, among other things, “personable” and “willing to keep driving and problem-solving.”

The first Trump transition may have been heavier on generals than foot soldiers—and many of the strong personalities clashed over difficult problems.

More than a few current foes of President Trump were left in the wake of those early days and months.

“The transition would become a breeding ground for creatures who would inhabit the Washington Swamp,” Anthony Scaramucci wrote in “Trump: The Blue-Collar President.” Mr. Scaramucci, who served little more than a week as White House communications director in 2017, is now an outspoken supporter of President Biden.

Mr. Bannon recounted that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, now another intractable Trump foe, assembled the initial transition team after President Trump’s 2016 election.

The resulting work product was “a joke” and easily discarded, Mr. Bannon said. Incoming Vice President Mike Pence, now also a Trump critic from time to time, replaced Mr. Christie at the helm of the transition effort.

“Ivanka, Jared, and I were really pulling together to run the transition,” Mr. Bannon said. “The Obama administration was not particularly helpful in the transition.”

(L–R) Senior advisers to President Trump, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, arrive for a signing ceremony for the United States–Mexico–Canada Trade Agreement on the South Lawn of the White House on Jan. 29, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner became fixtures of the Trump White House.

“There’s no question that Jared was very involved,” Sean Spicer told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Spicer, who after working on the transition team served as the first press secretary, noted Sen. Bill Haggerty’s (R-Tenn.) involvement in making key appointments.

Mr. Spicer was among the more politically experienced people in the room, having previously served as the Republican National Committee’s communications director. But multiple memoirs covering the transition and early administration took aim at Mr. Spicer, including Trump official Cliff Sims’s “Team of Vipers” and journalist Jonathan Karl’s “Front Row at the Trump Show.”

Mr. Bannon is also criticized by some memoirists. Mr. Karl noted he was a “surprisingly accessible source.”

For his part, the former White House chief strategist said the clash of personalities early on was a positive, comparing it to the “team of rivals” in President Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet.

An anonymous Trump administration insider told The Epoch Times that the involvement of the Boston Consulting Group in the first transition was particularly jarring. The company is one of the Big Three management consulting firms and, like both McKinsey & Company and Bain & Company, a potent symbol of the establishment.

President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 28, 2017. Also pictured (L–R) White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, press secretary Sean Spicer, and national security adviser Michael Flynn. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“It was ridiculous. It was the biggest fraud of the Trump presidency,” the insider said of the consulting group’s involvement, claiming that “the political loyalists had to defer to them.”

Mr. Spicer told The Epoch Times he hadn’t heard of any firm affiliates’ involvement in the transition. Yet reporting from the time identifies Boston Consulting Group staff on the transition team.

The group was also a part of the Trump–Biden transition.

A joint report from the group and the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition claims the two parties “played crucial roles in assisting all three of the major stakeholder groups throughout the 2020–21 transition.”

“Throughout 2020, we were able to build trusted relationships and provide critical support to three main audiences—the Biden transition team, Trump administration, and career agency officials,” a more detailed report from the Center for Presidential Transition reads. It describes Boston Consulting Group as the center’s “anchor partner on the transition.”

The 1st Days in Power

Kicking off the first term was President Trump’s inauguration speech.

A comparison between Mr. Kushner’s account of the speech and Mr. Karl’s version reveals just how differently the same few words resonated with different audiences.

Read more here...