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These Former Trump Advisers Are Trying to Do the Impossible: Make Trumpism About the Future

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But the plans were for nothing. Trump lost the election. Vision 2025 was never released. The retreat was cancelled.

Rollins, Kudlow and others have not rejected their project, however. Instead, they turned it into a blueprint for a new nonprofit, the America First Policy Institute, often described as a “White House pending.”

And now they are taking on another task: turning the White House-in-waiting into a truly forward-looking platform for a movement, led by Trump, which, as we know, cannot get over the past.

Trump will return to Washington, DC on Tuesday — his first visit since leaving in disgrace after Jan. 6 — to deliver the keynote address for AFPI’s America First Agenda Summit. While the ex-president is about to announce a 2024 run, his allies are eager for him to seize the opportunity to pause his grievances about 2020 and map out a game plan for 2024.

“It’s an opportunity for President Trump to come to Washington and deliver a visionary speech about why the future would be better with his leadership — and to the extent that he focuses on that, it could be a very important speech.” said Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the Republican House who will remain close to Trump and will speak at the summit.

Trump’s ability to let the past be over is famously limited. But things are becoming more critical, allies say, after damage he sustained during the Jan. 6 hearings that examined and exposed his conduct before and during the Capitol uprising.

Tuesday’s speech is an opportunity for Trump to show a focus on policy rather than reckoning. It will be the latest in an ongoing war between those in Trump’s orbit who want him to move on, and his own instincts and ID, which are holding him back.

According to someone familiar with Trump’s speech on Tuesday, it is not expected to be a comprehensive policy address, but will instead focus on a specific part of the America First platform. In an interview, Rollins called Trump’s speech at the upcoming summit a “State of the Union 5.0.” Among some Trump allies, it’s seen as a welcome invitation to hear something forward-looking from the ex-president.

“I think that’s a mistake – I don’t mind saying that directly. I think he should spend five minutes on the past – everyone understands whether they agree or disagree, everyone understands – and then the spend the rest of his time thinking about the future,” Gingrich said of Trump’s focus on re-introducing 2020.

The launch of AFPI was based on the idea that policy is actually part of Trump’s brand; that part of MAGA-ism was based on something outside of Trump himself.

“It’s an opportunity to unite the movement,” said Rollins of the two-day summit in DC. “Having worked alongside him in the White House for nearly three years, many people didn’t give him enough credit for his policy vision.”

The draft version of “Vision 2025” reviewed by POLITICO outlined what Trump’s advisers had accomplished by the end of 2024, under the subheading, “Renewed, Restored, Rebuilt.”

Some of those goals include job creation and low unemployment, expanding affordable housing, eradicating Covid-19, reducing federal bureaucracy, cracking down on crime and illegal immigration, passing congressional term limits, and ending foreign war and dependence on China. There are also social and cultural problems. But it’s not getting a central focus, at least not to the extent that the right has animated since Trump left office. Rollins, for example, didn’t want to get ahead of AFPI when asked about approving a national abortion ban in the wake of the downing of roebut praised the Supreme Court for giving the decision to the states.

“As a state-focused policymaker, I think the Supreme Court was 100 percent right to bring it closest to the American people,” Rollins said.

As part of Vision 2025, Rollins and her team have built AFPI into a think tank with more than 150 employees, including 17 former senior White House staffers, including former cabinet members such as Small Business Administrator administrator Linda McMahon and acting Chief of Homeland Security Chad. Wolf, Home Affairs Secretary David Bernhardt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. It also includes former senior executives like Kudlow and even football coach turned Trump ally Lou Holtz. In total, there are 22 policy centers within AFPI that focus on issues such as ‘The Center for Election Integrity’ and the ‘Center for Media Accountability’.

The group has filed lawsuits against “big tech” and vaccine mandates. And as a sign of its fundraising prowess, it has an operating budget of $25 million, though the funding sources for the nonprofit are publicly unknown as those disclosure forms have not yet been released.

A newly published organizational agenda, provided to POLITICO in advance by AFPI, outlines the nonprofit’s focus on 10 areas, including: “Make the Greatest Economy in the World Work for All Americans;” “Give parents more control over their children’s education;” “Finish the wall, end human trafficking and defeat the drug cartels;” “Make it easy to vote and hard to cheat;” “Provide safe and secure communities so that all Americans can live their lives in peace;” and “Fighting government corruption by draining the swamp.”

Trump supported the organization. He staged a fundraiser for a black tie gala for AFPI in Mar-a-Lago last November, and his PAC, Save America, donated $1 million. Some names on the organization’s list — including Conway, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Pastor Paula Cain-White — remain in Trump’s orbit.

But not everyone associated with the former president is a fan. Trump’s former trade adviser Peter Navarro, appear on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast Friday, called the organization “a dumping ground and refuge for many of the failed people of the first administration, the RINOs,” or just Republicans in name, “and the unfaithful people who abandoned Trump.”

One potential point of contention has been AFPI’s focus on growing its workforce should Trump — or any other Conservative — win in 2024. Other Trump-affiliated think tanks, including The Conservative Policy Institute and The Heritage Foundation, have also recently announced plans of their own. the next Conservative-led government, with the Presidential Transition Project in 2025.

But as reported by Axios, a group of prominent Trump advisers have also been working on their own personnel proposals that would effectively purge a huge chunk of the government under the pretense of disloyalty and replace them entirely with loyalists to Trump and Trumpism.

Earlier this summer, AFPI launched the “American Leadership Initiative,” led by former top federal staff official Michael Rigas, to identify positions that need to be cut or filled before a new right-wing government.

“Our side has never been good at preparing personnel and process and we have been chasing that for a long time. And I think hopefully with this effort, our leadership initiative alongside the efforts of CPI, the Heritage efforts, we will be ready for another day of leadership,” said Rollins.

As Rollins and others envision the future of the federal bureaucracy, there is also the possibility, as unlikely as it may seem, that Trump decides not to run again; or whether or not he wins the primary. Hogan Gidley, former Trump deputy press secretary and director of AFPI’s Center for Electoral Integrity, said no matter what Trump decides, the group is ideally qualified to serve the next “America First” administration, whether it is headed by Trump or not. .

“What we have are people who were in the room when President Trump was making decisions. No one else has that,” Gidley said.


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