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Trump’s ‘Project 2025’ plot would take ‘wrecking ball’ to US institutions, key Democrat warns

The blueprint for a potential second Donald Trump presidency known as Project 25 would take “a wrecking ball” to America’s democratic norms and institutions, a leading Democrat has warned.

Representative Jared Huffman spoke to the Guardian ahead of the launch of a congressional working group designed to sound the alarm about the rightwing roadmap and ensure that Trump never has the chance to implement its extreme agenda.

The near 900-page Project 2025 handbook was produced by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank in Washington, as a manifesto for expanding the power of the presidency while dismantling layers of government. It recommends purging the federal ranks of many appointed roles and stacking agencies with loyalists.

This would lay waste to democratic institutions, checks on executive power, individual rights and freedoms and church-state separation in order to impose a far-right agenda, Huffman said. “You can look at what they’re going to do to our democracy: weaponising the Department of Justice, clearing away any norms that limit executive power.

“You can look at what they’re going to do to the civil service with ‘Schedule F’ [an executive order Trump issued in 2020 that sought to strip job protections from tens of thousands of federal employees], putting their political operatives throughout the government and firing people based on political loyalty to Donald Trump.

“[Look at] what they would obviously do for women’s reproductive freedom and rolling back rights and protections for the LGBTQ community. Church-state separation – in the name of religious freedom, allowing all of this discrimination and further embedding Christian privilege into our government and public policies. It goes on and on.”

Founding members of the Stop Project 2025 Task Force joining Huffman are Ted Lieu, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus; Nanette Barragán, chair of the Hispanic Caucus; Judy Chu, chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus; Mark Pocan, chair of the Equality Caucus and Labor Caucus; Diana DeGette, co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus; Jamie Raskin, co-chair of the Freethought Caucus and ranking member of oversight; and Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus.

The Project 2025 document makes recommendations across four broad fronts: restoring the family as the centrepiece of American life; dismantling the administrative state; defending the nation’s sovereignty and borders; and securing “God-given” individual rights to live freely. That would translate into a fresh crackdown on reproductive freedom and draconian immigration laws – including even religious tests – within the first six months of a Trump presidency.

Huffman added: “What is new and different is that you have the most well-placed members of Team Trump, people that will hold senior positions in a second Trump presidency, openly proclaiming this is what they’re going to do, starting on day one. We’ve never seen this kind of sort of hubris and impunity.

“It is just a wrecking ball against everything that most of us hold dear about our country and our democracy, and that’s the biggest challenge we face is. How do you explain that this really is what they’re going to do without overwhelming people?”

One answer, the California congressman hopes, is the taskforce, intended to serve as a central hub for members of Congress, civil society and affected communities to coordinate on examining, highlighting, preempting and counteracting what they see as a rightwing plot to undermine democracy.

Huffman explained: “It’s a two-part objective. One is to help the American people understand that this is real and that it’s coming, because if they do understand, I think they’re going to want no part of it.

“The second part is, in the unthinkable, if Trump somehow manages to win, we’re not going have the luxury of time. If we’re reacting to these things as they’re rolling out, or in any way caught off guard, we’re going to lose so we’ve got to be ready to to call it out and fight it in real time, and that means we need to really understand it now.”

Huffman – the only publicly declared non-religious member of the House of Representatives – is a co-founder of the Freethought Caucus and gravely concerned about maintaining the separation of church and state. The taskforce is set to hold a series of mock hearings in the coming months, with different members presiding depending on the subject matter.

A press release for the taskforce noted: “While Project 2025 is being run out of the Heritage Foundation, its advisors include former Trump White House aides like Stephen Miller, and more than half the groups supporting the effort have received $21.5m in funding from Leonard Leo’s dark-money network.”

The taskforce will work with outside groups including Accountable US, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the ACLU and the Centre for American Progress.

Many are already bracing for Project 2025 in the event of a Joe Biden defeat in November. The advocacy organisation Democracy Forward is preparing counter measures including litigation to disrupt any effort to implement the radical plans.

Skye Perryman, president and CEO of Democracy Forward, said: “Project 2025 is one of the most profound threats the American people face today. From attacking reproductive rights and workplace safety laws, to allowing more discrimination, pollution, and price gouging, the far-right interests behind Project 2025 are preparing to go to incredible lengths to implement a dangerous and deeply unpopular agenda.”

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