Donald Trump’s Second-Term Agenda – The New York Times

Donald Trump’s Second-Term Agenda – The New York Times

My colleagues Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Charlie Savage are writing a continuing series on what Donald Trump plans to do during a second term as president. With Trump on his way to winning the Republican nomination, I want to devote today’s newsletter to a conversation with the three of them.

David: One question that some people have is whether Trump would govern as radically in a second term as his rhetoric suggests. After all, he also made sweeping promises when running in 2016, but he often failed to follow through.

There is no border wall. He didn’t withdraw from Afghanistan. He didn’t “lock up” Hillary Clinton. The courts rejected his initial Muslim ban and his changes to the census. What’s your view about whether to assume he will really do what he says in a second term?

Jonathan: I would challenge the statement that Trump didn’t do a lot of what he promised in his first term. Yes, there were some things he didn’t accomplish, and, yes, he initially appointed people who resisted his requests.

But by the end of his first term, Trump had put the U.S. on a course to withdraw from Afghanistan. On immigration, he had all but destroyed the asylum system. On trade, he had implemented tariffs against China and even European allies, and he had withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership — President Obama’s signature trade deal. He’d pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords. I could go on, but you get the point.

Maggie: One way to look at this is that Trump would be picking up where he left off when the pandemic changed everything. At the beginning of 2020, Trump had installed a loyalist at the office of presidential personnel, John McEntee, to purge the government of anti-Trump officials and had plans to make it easier to fire civil servants. That was all put on pause, and would resume accordingly.

Charlie: Those who stuck with Trump learned a lot about how to work the levers of government over four years and are likely to be more competent than they were at first. For example, you mention that the courts blocked his ban on travel to the U.S. by people from several Muslim countries, but that is only true of the first stabs at it. Eventually, his administration figured out how to rewrite it in a way that the Supreme Court let take effect. His aides would be starting from that level of sophistication in a second term.

David: If he is president again, which policy areas do you think will be his biggest initial priorities?

Maggie: Immigration is an area where he tried to do a number of things last time, some of which his appointees blocked. One example was releasing undocumented immigrants into sanctuary cities — similar to what Republican governors have done with sending undocumented immigrants to blue states. But lawyers at Trump’s Department of Homeland Security said it couldn’t work.

If a second Trump term happens, I think you will see him move quickly on immigration. He has promised crackdowns at the border through use of the Insurrection Act, as well as mass roundups and deportations of undocumented immigrants.

He and his allies have also been clear that a big agenda item is eroding the Justice Department’s independence.

Charlie: Yes, Trump has vowed to use his power over the Justice Department to turn it into an instrument of vengeance against his political adversaries. This would end the post-Watergate norm that the department carries out criminal investigations independently of White House political control, and it would be a big deal for American-style democracy.

Jonathan: The reality is that Trump has spent almost no time thinking about what governing would look like in a second term. To the extent he has thought about it, his mind mostly turns to the Department of Justice and the “deep state” — which he understands as the intelligence community. People close to Trump are already drawing up lists of “disloyal” officials in the national security apparatus who will be targeted for retribution.

David: So far, we’ve been talking about the executive branch, but the Constitution includes checks on a president’s power — namely, Congress and the courts. How might they respond?

Charlie: The ability of other branches to serve as a check will be diminished. Most of the Republicans in Congress who occasionally stood up to Trump have left government or, by 2025, will have. Think of John McCain, Jeff Flake, Adam Kinzinger, Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney.

The Supreme Court will be more tilted in Trump’s favor in any second term, thanks to his own appointments in his first four years. As a result, some disputes that he lost last time — such as the immigration case involving so-called Dreamers — would probably come out the other way.

Jonathan: I would add that the Senate has been the institution most resistant to Trump, but that, too, is changing. Mitch McConnell is near the end of his career. And the newer Republican senators, like J.D. Vance of Ohio and Ted Budd of North Carolina, are Trump loyalists who replaced Trump skeptics.

David: Good point. The main conclusion I take from your reporting is that when Trump tells voters what he plans to do in a second term, we should default to believing him.

You can find the full series by Jonathan, Maggie and Charlie here, including articles on immigration, the Justice Department, trade and NATO.

N.F.L. (Taylor’s Version): Since Taylor Swift began to show up at Kansas City Chiefs games, some football fans have griped that the cameras seem to focus more on her than on the field. In reality, through, Swift occupies a tiny portion of the broadcasts, as The Times’s Benjamin Hoffman found when he analyzed each game she has attended since Christmas. Last week, during the Chiefs’ playoff victory over the Bills, Swift was onscreen for 24 seconds — just a few seconds longer than her boyfriend’s shirtless brother.

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