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It seems like Project 2025 is everywhere. But what is it?

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures after speaking at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami on Tuesday.
Rebecca Blackwell
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures after speaking at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami on Tuesday.

Former President Donald Trump wants to distance himself from Project 2025, while the Biden campaign is doing everything it can to tie Trump to the conservative plan to transform the American government.

“I know nothing about Project 2025,” Trump wrote on his social media website 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.”

The 900-page plan, pulled together by the prominent conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, serves as a conservative guidebook to expand presidential powers and overhaul the federal workforce so that it can be replaced with partisan loyalists.

What is in Project 2025?

It’s not Trump’s plan, but it is a plan made for Trump, who leaders have described as the “embodiment” of their efforts. And it outlines legal pathways Trump could take to implement some of his biggest policy goals.

Project 2025 also outlines transition and recruitment plans to help ensure Trump does not repeat some of the mistakes made early in his first administration when his team was caught unprepared to staff and take over the government from the outgoing Obama administration.

“If we learned anything from President Trump's 2016 presidential transition effort, it wasn't as smooth as others,” said Ryan Williams, who worked for Mitt Romney on his 2012 presidential campaign. “Usually, presidential campaigns have fully functioning transition operations ready to go.”

While Trump has sought to deny a connection, there is plenty of overlap between Project 2025 and his agenda.

It proposes mass deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants. So does Trump.

Trump has called for cuts to the federal agencies like the Department of Education. Project 2025 calls for its elimination.

But, there are also differences.

On abortion, for example, Project 2025 goes farther with restrictions than Trump has said he would go.

Trump blasted the plan last week, days after the president of the Heritage Foundation, Kevin Roberts, warned of the potential for political violence.

“We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be,” Roberts said on the conservative podcast The War Room.

How have Democrats responded to it?

Democrats pounced, immediately seeing an opportunity to point to Roberts' comments as an example of the dangers of a second Trump administration.

248 years ago tomorrow America declared independence from a tyrannical king, and now Donald Trump and his allies want to make him one at our expense,” James Singer, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign said ahead of the Fourth of July.

The campaign has also launched ads and created a website tying Trump to Project 2025.

Biden got some political help from Taraji P. Henson, who warned about Project 2025 — on stage — when she hosted the BET awards.

“Pay attention,” she said. “It’s not a secret: Look it up. They are attacking our most vulnerable citizens. The Project 2025 plan is not a game. Look it up!”

The critical focus on Project 2025 has been a small sliver of good political news for the Biden team in an otherwise rough period of endless attention on Biden’s bad debate performance and questions about whether he would remain the Democratic nominee.

The Trump campaign continues to push back.

Senior Trump adviser Danielle Alvarez pointed out that the campaign has been saying for months that these outside groups don't represent Trump. She stressed that the Trump team has its own policy proposals, Agenda 47, and the Republican platform.

The Heritage Foundation emphasized this week that Project 2025 doesn’t speak for any candidate and is only offering recommendations, and that it is "ultimately up to that president, who we believe will be President Trump, to decide which recommendations to implement."

Alvarez also responded to Democrats' focus on the project, accusing Biden of trying to distract from questions about his mental acuity and staying power.

“And so Democrats are desperate,” she said. “And they're throwing a Hail Mary attempting to talk about outside groups as though they are President Trump's policy positions.”

Copyright 2024 NPR

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.