Trump is trying to distance himself from Project 2025. Its architects helped shape his RNC platform

The conservative Project 2025 seeks to overhaul the federal government.

ByWill Steakin and Soo Rin Kim ABCNews logo
Friday, July 12, 2024 8:28AM
Trump seeks to distance himself from pro-Trump Project 2025
Trump sought to distance himself from a closely aligned conservative group's plans to radically reshape the federal government and American life

Last week, former President Donald Trump attempted to distance himself from "Project 2025," a sweeping plan to overhaul the federal government proposed by a closely aligned conservative group.

"I know nothing about Project 2025," Trump claimed on social media, referring to the 922-page plan put forward by a group of conservative organizations led by the Heritage Foundation. "I have no idea who is behind it."

Trump's comments made it seem like he had no connection to the controversial plan or those involved in it.

But when Republicans meet in Milwaukee next week and vote to officially confirm the first new Republican Party platform since 2016 -- which Trump and Republicans across the country will run on -- that platform will have been crafted and influenced by individuals with deep ties to Project 2025.

In May, the Trump campaign and the RNC announced their Platform Committee leadership team, the senior officials tasked with drafting the Republican platform, and named Russ Vought as the platform committee's policy director and Ed Martin as deputy policy director. Both have ties to Project 2025.

Vought, who previously served Trump as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, authored a chapter on "Executive Office of the President" for Project 2025's "Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise," which Project 2025 describes as "a comprehensive policy guide for the next conservative U.S. president."

Vought's Center For Renewing America is also listed as a member of Project 2025's advisory board, according to the plan's website.

Martin, who the Trump campaign and RNC named as the party's deputy platform policy director, is the president of the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund; Eagle Forum is also listed as a part of Project 2025's advisory board.

Other members on the RNC platform committee with ties to Project 2025 include Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who has been vocal in his efforts to ensure the Republican platform does not soften its language on abortion. Perkins has said he is involved in the crafting of the 2024 platform, and Family Research Council is also an advisory board member to Project 2025.

The new platform was adopted by an 84-14 committee vote on Monday, a source told ABC News. The full Republican National Committee membership vote to officially confirm the platform from the convention floor will happen next week, according to an RNC spokesperson.

Democratic National Committee press secretary Emilia Rowland, commenting on the RNC platform, said in a statement, "The reality is that Trump literally put architects of Project 2025 in charge of the Republican platform, and the result is not only the most extreme platform in GOP history but one containing lie after lie after lie."

"Agenda 47 and President Trump's RNC Platform are the only policies endorsed by President Trump for a second term," said Republican National Committee spokesperson Danielle Alvarez. "Team Biden and the DNC are LYING and fear-mongering because they have NOTHING else to offer the American people. Remember this is the same group that lied to Americans and hid Joe Biden's cognitive decline all these years."

The Biden-Harris campaign, meanwhile, is starting to place ads tying Project 2025 and Trump together.

As recently as April, Project 2025's senior adviser John McEntee -- who was previously a Trump White House adviser -- said he was working to integrate Project 2025 with the Trump campaign while also attempting to create a distinction between the two entities.

"Obviously, there will need to be coordination and the president and his team will announce an official transition this summer, and we're going to integrate a lot of our work with them. But I think keeping the two separate is actually the most beneficial way to go about it," McEntee said on the Daily Wire's Morning Wire.

By the end of Trump's first term, McEntee was tasked with scouring federal agencies for people who were not fully behind Trump's agenda. In October 2020, he drafted a memo arguing that Trump should fire then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper three weeks before Esper was terminated, as first reported by ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl in his book "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show."

A major part of Project 2025's agenda is to expand presidential power and drastically cut federal agencies like the Education Department -- moves that Trump, on the campaign trail, has supported. The proposal also calls for a reversal of the Food and Drug Administration's approval of abortion pill mifepristone. Trump earlier this month said he does not support blocking access to mifepristone.

Despite Trump's attempts to distance himself from Project 2025, the two worlds remain deeply intertwined. Several key former members of the Trump administration are involved with the project, including Stephen Miller, who recently helped Trump with debate prep and acted as a surrogate in the spin room following the CNN presidential debate in Atlanta -- and who appears in Project 2025's educational "presidential administration academy" video and whose organization, America First Legal, is listed as among its advisory members.

Members of Trump's PAC-funded groups also sit on the project's advisory board, including Conservative Partnership Institute, an organization led by Trump's former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, which received a $1 million donation from Trump's Save America PAC in 2021.

The Trump campaign's now-national press secretary Karoline Leavitt is also prominently featured in Project 2025's "presidential administration academy" video, which the group says is designed to train the next generation of conservative politicians.

The video was produced in September 2023, when Leavitt was serving as a spokesperson for pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc., which is a separate entity from the Trump campaign. Leavitt joined the Trump campaign in January of 2024.

Other policy groups and think tanks with ties to Trump and his former administration have also proposed policy outlines for a potential second term, including the America First Policy Institute, which houses hundreds of former Trump administration officials. Save America PAC also donated $1 million to America First Policy Institute.

The Trump campaign's senior advisers have long maintained distance from all outside policy groups, including Project 2025, saying they're "merely suggestions" and stressing "none of these groups or individuals speak for President Trump or his campaign."

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