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Why Trump Is Distancing Himself From Project 2025

“They’re holding themselves out as part of the official or semiofficial transition team, and they’ve been warned to knock it the fuck off. They didn’t,” one source close to Trump told NOTUS.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at the Road to Majority conference.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

After Donald Trump tried to distance himself from The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 on Friday, Democrats were all too happy to take a victory lap, claiming it was proof that their effort to hype up the far-right playbook for a second Trump term was working with voters.

The truth is that it was Project 2025 leaders’ own efforts that set him off, a source close to Trump told NOTUS.

“I know nothing about Project 2025,” Trump said on Truth Social. “I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying, and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

Democrats have been going after Project 2025 — a coalition of over 100 conservative groups led by The Heritage Foundation — as a proxy for the former president for months. It’s heavily Trump-aligned, includes many of his close allies and former advisers, and many of its policy suggestions line up with his past efforts.

But the Trump campaign has insisted that the project doesn’t speak for its plans. As campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in December: “Unless a message is coming directly from President Trump or an authorized member of his campaign team, no aspect of future presidential staffing or policy announcements should be deemed official.”

When Project 2025 leaders continued talking about cabinet and sub-cabinet positions that they had “zero authority to discuss,” it got to the point where the group couldn’t be ignored because of the trouble they were causing, the source close to Trump told NOTUS. That ultimately led to a response from Trump himself.

The source said that while “there are lots of people out there pretending that they have more influence than they actually have,” most of them are “harmlessly stupid.” But Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts, who recently said on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” show that America is in the midst of a “second American Revolution,” became a liability, the source said.

“They’re holding themselves out as part of the official or semiofficial transition team, and they’ve been warned to knock it the fuck off. They didn’t. FAFO,” the source added, as in “fuck around and find out.”

When reached for comment, a Trump campaign spokesperson directed NOTUS to Trump’s Truth Social post.

Project 2025 quickly responded to Trump’s Truth Social post, with a spokesperson saying that the plan “does not speak for any candidate or campaign.”

“We are a coalition of more than 110 conservative groups advocating policy and personnel recommendations for the next conservative president,” the spokesperson said. “But it is ultimately up to that president, who we believe will be President Trump, to decide which recommendations to implement.”

When rumors started ahead of the first presidential debate that Biden and his campaign planned to go after Trump on Project 2025, the pro-Trump super PAC MAGA Inc. bought a domain titled “trumpproject2025.com” as a way to capture the search traffic generated from the attacks, a source familiar with the plans told NOTUS. (The website makes no reference to Heritage’s Project 2025 and instead lays out Trump’s plans for a second term, including much of his official Agenda 47.)

While most of Project 2025’s policy suggestions are inspired by ideas floated during Trump’s first administration, some do not fully align with the former president’s more recent public stances. For example, while the plan calls for the Food and Drug Administration to reverse its approval of abortion pills and urges a conservative president to enforce the Comstock Act to ban the drugs, Trump has said he “will not block” access to them.

Despite this, Democrats did not miss a beat to call out Trump for trying to distance himself from the project. The Biden campaign’s director of rapid response, Ammar Moussa, said that Project 2025 “should scare the hell out of the American people.”

“Project 2025 staff and leadership routinely tout their connections to Trump’s team and are the same people leading the RNC policy platform and Trump’s debate prep, campaign and inner circle,” Moussa said in a statement.

Close Trump allies who are part of Project 2025 include Stephen Miller, Mark Meadows, John McEntee and Russ Vought.

Vought was selected by the Trump campaign to lead the committee drafting the Republican Party platform, which will reflect Trump’s ideas. For that reason, Democrats say, the ties between Trump and Project 2025 should not be ignored.

“Trump’s ridiculous effort now to create space between him and his closest advisers collapses immediately,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, who is part of the Stop Project 2025 task force, told NOTUS. “In one desperate paragraph, he denies knowing anything about it … tries to create plausible deniability with respect to certain parts of the plan, and then enthusiastically cheerleads for the entire project.”

“Trump is so worried about this that he’s lying in the most easily disprovable ways,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, the task force’s founder. “Those of us who have been exposing 2025 are now living rent-free inside his big orange head.”

Some former Trump administration officials also say that Trump’s post should not be taken as his last word.

“He wants to own his own policy, his own personnel, and I think that’s what this is about,” said Marc Short, a longtime GOP consultant who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence. “Trump is always going to be transactional on policy, so some will [become enacted], some won’t. He’s not going to purchase some doctrinaire, you know, conservative viewpoint.”

Reese Gorman and Oriana González are reporters at NOTUS. Capitol Hill bureau chief Matt Fuller contributed reporting.