Speaking at the America First Policy Institute summit in Washington, DC, yesterday, former President Donald Trump set tongues wagging regarding his political future. As well as laying out sweeping policy prescriptions for America, Trump dropped hints about whether he would run for office once more. This topic has, of course, been beaten to death — debated and analyzed from every angle in the long run-up to 2024. The 45th president has managed to stay in the headlines, even before the Soviet-style show trial known as the Jan. 6 Committee hearings designed specifically to run him out of politics on a rail and assure that Trump’s second term will never happen. Everyone from legitimate pundits to hot-air blowhards constantly weigh in on the likelihood of his candidacy, whether other Republicans will step up to challenge him for the GOP nomination, and ultimately his chances for victory.
But other than endorsements of dozens of candidates in the upcoming midterm elections, it had been unclear what else the former president has been doing to prepare for another campaign — or four more years in the White House. Well, it turns out that 45 has been hard at work on an agenda and structure for a second term that would all but empty the DC Swamp he attempted to drain from day one of his presidency — replacing his deep state enemies, squishy moderate Republicans (RINOs), and Never-Trumpers with America First loyalists. This, according to an in-depth article in recent days from Axios entitled “A radical plan for Trump’s second term,” and a companion piece, “Trump’s revenge.”
The enterprising reports claim that the plan’s impact “could go well beyond typical conservative targets such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. Trump allies are working on plans that would potentially strip layers at the Justice Department — including the FBI, and reaching into national security, intelligence, the State Department and the Pentagon, sources close to the former president say.”
No Mercy in Trump’s Second Term
The plan, which was initiated by Trump in 2020 — and would have been fully implemented upon his re-election — revolves around something called “Schedule F.” It would allow certain civil servants in policy-making positions — thousands of them — to be reclassified with this new designation that would strip them of their near-guaranteed job security. The impossibility of firing a civil servant, short of murder in broad daylight before thousands of witnesses, has long been a hallmark of the “bipartisan” civil service since its creation in 1883 and a source of mockery and outrage among much of the population. The ones on the chopping block are either the same people or others in the same mold who actively opposed and stymied Trump and were part of the vast deep state effort to destroy him. Trump has prepared enough to presumably be able to implement his root-and-branch remaking of the federal government immediately upon reassuming the presidency.
But why would Trump want to do this? Why would he subject himself to the national campaign circus again, not to mention a job that caused him untold heartache the first time around? His enemies have never been able to answer the question of why a man with essentially a perfect life — fame, fortune, family — would put it all at risk to seek the presidency three times. Trump knew full well that he would attract a level of revulsion that would make the left’s hatred of previous Republican presidents, from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, seem like fondness. And yet he did run, and despite being savaged by the entrenched political and cultural establishment from the moment he entered the Oval Office, he ran again anyway. It does not seem to occur to his enemies that Trump believes the country is in dire straits and is willing to sacrifice his life in order to step up to meet the moment. They fail to take seriously the notion that Trump is certain, rightly or wrongly, that only he is capable of swinging a wrecking ball large enough to complete the work he started in 2017.
Of course, the most effective way to remain relevant is to all but promise you will run again, without crossing the line that marks you as an official entry into the race, subject to the many FEC rules and regulations applied to declared candidates. But the promise of another run — with rumors of an announcement before midterms — keeps the fundraising spigots open and him in the headlines: Will he or won’t he? Trump has long been a chief proponent of the notion that any publicity is good publicity. But it is also very possible that, given the weight of Jan. 6, which he would carry, and his lifelong commitment to winning at all costs – or, put another way, his abject hatred of losing — he will continue to tease a third run at the brass ring but ultimately not run. He could choose instead to serve as the America First kingmaker, a role many in the GOP and conservative movement believe would be a far better fit: Trumpism, via Ron DeSantis or another MAGA advocate, without Trump. But in the end, it is difficult to envision this 45th president surrendering the stage to anyone else.
He came, he saw, but Trump was unable to conquer a deep state that, by its own admission, conspired to remove him by whatever means availed themselves. Trump’s original plan was to drain the Swamp, to steadily remove the stultified DC bureaucrats who stood in the way of his agenda. But that was before he knew his way around Washington and just how much of a roadblock the deep state would turn out to be. This time, if he returns to the presidency with the wealth of knowledge — especially about his enemies — gained through four tumultuous years in the White House, Trump’s second term plans will make the first time around seem like a dress rehearsal. This time, he and his administration-in-waiting plan to empty the Swamp.