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Trump’s Second-Term Policy Agenda
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Trump’s Second-Term Policy Agenda

‘The next time, I’m not waiting.’

Happy Thursday!* Two days ago, Matt Hilton was your run-of-the-mill bee specialist. Then, he cleared a swarming colony of bees from the top of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ backstop, ending an hours-long bee delay in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Thank you bee guy,” the jumbotron read. The crowd chanted, “M-V-P!” He threw out the first pitch. And just like that, a star was born.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Biden administration on Wednesday announced new sanctions on more than 280 individuals and organizations—including entities in China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—that the State Department said were aiding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including by providing components for Russian drones and missiles. In addition, the administration announced sanctions on three people linked to the death of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny while he was in custody. “The United States will continue to use the tools at its disposal to disrupt support for Russia’s military-industrial base and curtail Russia’s use of the international financial system to further its war against Ukraine,” the State Department said in a statement
  • The parliament of the Caucasus nation of Georgia approved a second reading on Wednesday of a controversial bill that would register any media and non-commercial organization in the country receiving greater than 20 percent foreign funding as “bearing the interests of a foreign power.” The legislation has inspired weeks of protests, which police on Wednesday tried to disperse using stun grenades and tear gas. This is the Georgian parliament’s second attempt to institute the Russian-style “foreign agent” law, which also prompted protests last spring.
  • The United Methodist Church on Wednesday reversed its 40-year ban on ordaining gay clergy and effectively voted to allow same-sex marriages. The measure related to clergy passed overwhelmingly in a 692-51 vote during the church’s General Conference meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.*
  • President Joe Biden announced Wednesday he is “canceling” $6.1 billion in student debt for 317,000 attendees of the Art Institutes, a private art school system that permanently closed in September. “This institution falsified data, knowingly misled students, and cheated borrowers into taking on mountains of debt without leading to promising career prospects at the end of their studies,” Biden said in a statement.
  • A bipartisan group of senators—led by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii—reintroduced a bill Wednesday that would set a minimum age requirement for social media accounts. The legislation—first introduced by Schatz last year—would set a social media minimum age requirement at 13 years old, and at 17 years old for “feeding algorithmically-boosted content.” Additionally, the proposal would block social media apps and websites on public school networks and devices.
  • GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia announced on Wednesday she will force a vote next week to oust Speaker Mike Johnson, a motion that is bound to fail after House Democrats confirmed Tuesday they would block it. Only two other House GOP members—Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona—have publicly supported Greene’s push to remove Johnson over his decision to usher additional Ukraine aid through Congress.
  • In a 320-91 vote on Wednesday, the House passed the bipartisan Antisemitism Awareness Act, intended to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws against antisemitism on college campuses. If enacted, the Department of Education would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism and could include calls for the destruction of Israel in prohibited speech. The bill’s future in the Democratic-controlled Senate is uncertain.
  • The Federal Reserve on Wednesday opted to hold interest rates steady at 5.25-5.50 percent, and central bankers acknowledged that inflation was no longer progressing toward the Fed’s 2 percent goal. “The economic outlook is uncertain, and the Committee remains highly attentive to inflation risks,” the bankers said. Still, Fed Chair Jerome Powell added that it’s “unlikely” their next move would be a rate hike. 

Trump, Take Two

Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, speaks during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 4, 2023. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, speaks during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 4, 2023. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

With a little more than six months until Election Day, most mainstream coverage of former President Donald Trump’s third campaign for the White House has focused on his legal travails and his increasingly violent rhetoric. Comparatively little attention has been devoted to exploring what policy could look like in another Trump administration—and understandably so, since the Trump campaign is explicitly premised on retribution, rather than policy goals.

But the race between Trump and President Joe Biden stands more or less in a statistical tie. And while it’s not yet clear what kind of support either president would have in Congress if reelected, both have proven themselves more than willing to wield—and stretch—their executive powers to enact desired policy outcomes. So, it’s worth examining what plans Trump has forecasted in his third campaign and the steps the Biden administration is taking to try to preserve its executive policymaking into a second Trump term. 

Time Magazine’s cover story this week, “If He Wins,” offered a rare glimpse at Trump’s policy priorities for his second term as described by the man himself. One lesson Trump seems to have taken away from his first term? Personnel is policy. “The advantage I have now is I know everybody,” he said. “I know the good, the bad, the stupid, the smart.”

Trying to pin the ever-mercurial Trump down on policy—outside his approach to the border, NATO, and a few other areas—is a fool’s errand. Just ask the pro-life community. In trying to read the tea leaves of a potential second term, therefore, journalists and analysts have focused on the people who are around Trump now, as opposed to the staff of his first administration. A litany of high-ranking Trump administration officials—including former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, and former Vice President Mike Pence—have publicly come out against their former boss, deeming him unfit for the office and even a “threat to democracy.”

Stephen Miller is among the few high-profile Trump administration alumni who’ve remained supportive of the former president, and Miller—Trump’s immigration guru—has big policy plans for a second term. He’s reportedly eying a mass deportation program inspired by President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1954 deportation campaign, reinstating the Title 42 authority allowing border agents to deport migrants before they can apply for asylum, and bringing back the Remain in Mexico policy. Miller plans on using an aggressive, flood-the-zone legal strategy to overwhelm potential challenges from immigrant advocacy groups and lawyers. 

In the Time interview, Trump seemed not to know the details of enforcing mass deportation but indicated he’d try to use whatever mechanisms he could, including local law enforcement and the National Guard. “I can see myself using the National Guard and, if necessary, I’d have to go a step further,” he said, without specifying what that step was. “We have to do whatever we have to do to stop the problem we have.” 

Trump has also suggested he could use the National Guard to tackle issues beyond immigration, including crime. In November, he floated sending in troops to fight crime in Democratic cities like New York and Chicago. “And one of the other things I’ll do—because you’re supposed to not be involved in that—you just have to be asked by the governor or the mayor to come in,” he said. “The next time, I’m not waiting.” 

And as things stand, he may have some legal backing to do it. “The Insurrection Act, as it’s currently written, is a blank check for any president to bring the military into the domestic realm,” Jack Goldsmith—a Harvard Law professor and former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration—said last month. “It has extremely vague triggers for its use. It has no time limit on its use.” The act includes a section empowering the executive to call out the troops “whenever the president considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws.”

There has been a push among legal scholars like Goldsmith and some lawmakers to reform the Insurrection Act by more narrowly defining the circumstances in which the president can invoke the authority and setting a time limit for its use. But the clock is winding down for Congress to make any changes before the next election, meaning that—barring intervention from a veto-proof majority in the next Congress—it’s likely that whoever wins in November will continue to have access to the broad executive power.

Recent presidential administrations have increasingly relied on executive orders and executive branch agency rule-making to enact policy changes, particularly when the president’s party doesn’t control both chambers of Congress. The current administration has been no exception: Biden, for example, has implemented a slew of environmental regulations and policies surrounding carbon emissions and oil and gas permitting through the rulemaking processes of the Department of Energy (DOE), the Interior Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Advisers close to Trump have made clear that they want to see much of that work undone.

A few years ago, the Heritage Foundation launched “Project 2025,” a policy plan written largely by former Trump administration officials for whoever becomes the next “conservative president.” The initiative’s website argues that “it is not enough for conservatives to win elections. If we are going to rescue the country from the grip of the radical Left, we need both a governing agenda and the right people in place, ready to carry this agenda out on Day One of the next conservative Administration.”

Bernard McNamee, a former commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominated by Trump, contributed to the project’s section related to the Department of Energy. “DOE, instead of focusing on core energy and security issues, has been spending billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize renewable energy developers and investors, thereby making Americans less energy secure and distorting energy markets,” he wrote. The Biden administration’s pause on liquefied natural gas export approvals, for example, would likely be gone very quickly in a second Trump term.

The Trump campaign hasn’t released many detailed policy plans, but energy and immigration—the two areas the former president referenced when he quipped to Sean Hannity that he’d be a dictator only for a day—are expected to be big priorities for Trump.

The Biden administration has taken steps to try to blunt the effects of some executive actions Trump would likely try to take in a second term. In October 2020, shortly before the last presidential election, Trump signed an executive order (EO) creating a new class of political appointees known as “Schedule F.” The order empowered the president to convert career civil servant policy advisory positions into appointee roles that could be filled by political loyalists. Biden rescinded the order once in office, and he’s trying to prevent a redux if he loses in November.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) finalized a rule earlier this month that aims to set guardrails around career civil servants’ positions, protecting the 2.2 million federal employees from being reclassified and subject to hirings and firings on a political basis. “This rule is a step toward combating corruption and partisan interference to ensure civil servants are able to focus on the most important task at hand: delivering for the American people,” Biden said in a statement about the rule. 

Trump and his advisers are looking to revive the policy in a second term—part of Project 2025 involves recruiting a bank of ideologically aligned staff who could potentially fill reclassified civil servant positions. “We want to get rid of bad people, people that have not done a good job in government,” Trump said. When asked about Schedule F specifically, Trump said, “Civil service is both very good and very bad,” he added. “You have some people that are protected that shouldn’t be protected.”

Trump could rescind the Biden protections once in office, but it would take time to implement a reversal. “Whatever the next administration’s policy [is], would only be effective after the rule was appealed through the full, complete notice and comment rulemaking process,” Bitsy Skerry—a regulatory policy associate at the progressive advocacy group Public Citizen—told TMD. “President Trump could issue an executive order announcing that he’s going to repeal Biden’s OPM rule, but then exactly his administration would have to start that notice and comment rulemaking process all over again.”

But the process would only delay, not stop, a reversal of the rule. “It is not going to be effective until this rule is rolled back,” said James Sherk, a domestic policy adviser in the Trump White House who now works at the America First Policy Institute. “This is something that can slow down a Schedule F but only by six months to a year.”

Regardless of the timeline, Trump has made clear his intent to clean house in a second term. “They have gotten very far astray from our Constitution,” he told Time. “I’m talking about the fascists and the people in our government right now, because I consider them, you know, we talk about the enemy from within. I think the enemy from within, in many cases, is much more dangerous for our country than the outside enemies of China, Russia.”

Worth Your Time

  • Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will feature fans wearing all varieties of hats: baseball caps, bucket hats, visors, maybe even a fedora or two. But the real scene-stealers are the couture millinery, many of which Christine Moore makes in her small studio in Midtown Manhattan. “It’s possible that Moore’s most famous hat was a Kentucky Derby commission in 2009,” Hannah Vanbiber wrote for The Athletic. “Worn by Patty Ethington of Shelbyville, Ky., the red hat was designed to look like a massive flower and could fit three people under its brim. A photo from the day went viral, and the rest is—almost literally—history: The hat ended up in the Kentucky Derby Museum for 10 years. Ethington is now known for her larger-than-life Derby hats. ‘The bigger, the better,’ she says. This year, for the 150th anniversary of the Derby, Ethington broke out the big red hat and is bringing it back.”

Presented Without Comment

Associated Press: Trump Will Speak at the Libertarian National Convention as He Woos Independent Voters

Also Presented Without Comment

The Hill: Dave & Buster’s to Allow Customers to Bet on Arcade Games 

Also Also Presented Without Comment

New York Post: More Than $124k Raised for UNC Frat Brothers Who Protected American Flag From Anti-Israeli Mob

“A GoFundMe page set up for the Pi Kappa Phi students has raised more than $122,000 as of Wednesday afternoon for the students’ heroic stand this week at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus—“to throw this frat the party they deserve,” the fundraising site said.”

In the Zeitgeist 

Richard Tandy, the keyboard player for Electric Light Orchestra, passed away at the age of 76, ELO frontman Jeff Lynne announced yesterday. Tandy and Lynne reunited in 2012 to play their classic, “Evil Woman,” and they definitely still had it. 

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: The Dispatch Politics team reported on a Federal Election Commission rule that could reshape campaign field operations, Jonah argued (🔒) that universities are getting exactly what their admissions policies are selecting for, and Nick suggested that Marjorie Taylor Greene’s “Uniparty” pejorative is simultaneously meaningless and good, actually. 
  • On the podcasts: Sarah and David cover the battle between Texas and Pornhub on Advisory Opinions, while Jonah is joined by Robert Kagan on The Remnant to debate whether Trump is a natural outgrowth of American conservatism.
  • On the site: Charlotte reports on Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Israel and the state of a deal to release the Hamas-held hostages, and Stephen Gutowski—founder of The Reloadexplores whether Trump might abandon the gun rights movement as he did pro-lifers. 

Let Us Know

What do you think is the most effective way for journalists—and voters—to discern what policy would look like in a second Trump administration?

Corrections, May 2, 2024: Today is, in fact, Thursday, not Wednesday as this newsletter originally stated. The United Methodist Church meeting also took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, rather than Durham, North Carolina.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.

Peter Gattuso is a reporter for The Morning Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2024, he interned at The Dispatch, National Review, the Cato Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. When Peter is not helping write TMD, he is probably watching baseball, listening to music on vinyl records, or discussing the Jones Act.