Calmes: Donald Trump's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad second term

Millions of us are justifiably focused on seeing that Donald Trump is held to account for what he’s allegedly done in the past.

Scheming to flip the legitimate 2020 election result and resisting the peaceful transfer of power, a first for U.S. presidents. Making off with top-secret documents and conspiring to hide them from the feds. Falsifying business records to keep hush money paid to a porn star a secret from voters in 2016.

We mustn’t lose sight, however, of what Trump will do, if — despite all that baggage — he defeats Joe Biden to become president again. His fever dreams are no secret. He’s told us, and his henchmen have, too, in interviews and in exhaustive, scary detail in their so-called Project 2025 blueprint for a second Trump term.

Among Trump’s first acts? Turning the historically independent Justice Department into his personal law firm, chock-full of taxpayer-paid Roy Cohns ready to dump the criminal cases against the boss.

And then, despite Trump’s arguments to the Supreme Court that presidents must have legal immunity (something no other president ever sought), he’ll sic his government prosecutors on Biden. As he told Time magazine for its recent cover story, “Biden, I am sure, will be prosecuted for all of his crimes.” What crimes? Trump doesn’t say and his Republican flunkies in the House have come up with bubkes after more than a year of investigation.

Focusing on Trump’s plans is important in its own right. But it’s all the more crucial for voters given that accountability for his past acts is proving so elusive, thanks to Republican appointees on the Supreme Court and the rookie Trump judge handling the classified documents case in Florida. They’re indulging his sand-in-the-gears legal tactics and engineering their own. The hush money case could well be the only one to reach a verdict before November.

That Trump 2.0 hasn’t gotten more attention is a reflection of just how normalized his outrageousness has become — and how distracted voters and the media have been by the prosecutions of Trump 1.0.

In any other era, proposals like these would be big news: The National Guard, and perhaps the military, too, rounding up and deporting an estimated 11 million people who came to this country illegally, most of them years ago, and who now hold jobs, pay taxes and raise children who are citizens. Huge detention camps for migrants. National Guard troops policing city streets at presidential whim. A rollback of climate change programs to “drill, baby, drill.”

For voters not inclined to wade through the voluminous Project 2025, Time’s cover story provided a CliffsNotes version, “If He Wins…How Far Trump Would Go.” He sat for two interviews with the reporter, reflecting his longtime obsession with being a Time coverboy; pre-presidency, he had a fake cover created and hung framed copies in his clubs until the magazine asked that he remove them. (The truly “fake news” headline: “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS…EVEN TV!”)

His second-term agenda reflects lessons gleaned from the first. Chiefly this one, which is how the Time piece begins: “He was too nice.”

Trump unleashed would only hire advisors who agree that the 2020 election was stolen from him. He’d “absolutely” pardon every rioter convicted and charged with Jan. 6 crimes (more than 800 have pleaded guilty or been convicted by juries). He’d gut the civil service and revert to a spoils system of MAGA loyalists. He’d spend federal funds as he wanted, not as annual budget laws stipulated. And because “there is a definite anti-white feeling in this country,” he’d look into changing laws that are “very unfair” to white Americans.

Trump would almost certainly spur inflation by raising tariffs at least 10% on all imports and up to 100% on Chinese goods. He simply dismisses multiple analyses that found his earlier tariffs on steel and aluminum imports raised prices for U.S. manufacturers and consumers and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Steel companies “love me because I saved their industry,” he said. In fact, whole operations shuttered and the number of steelworker jobs shrank over his term.

On foreign policy, Trump stood by his talk of encouraging the Russians “to do whatever the hell they want” to NATO allies he believes aren’t spending enough on their own defense. He told Time he “wouldn’t give a penny” to Ukraine unless Europe ponies up equally, which — contrary to Trump’s claims — it already is doing.

The former president fell back on his new states’ rights stance on abortion to dismiss all questions about the issue. Say red states want to monitor women’s pregnancies to police compliance with their abortion bans. “I think they might do that,” he said, and “it’s irrelevant whether I’m comfortable or not” with that.

Yet Trump might not be as hands-off as this suggests. Project 2025 envisions federal regulatory agencies imposing anti-abortion policies and the revival of the 19th-century Comstock Act to criminalize mailing abortion pills, now the main method to end pregnancies. Trump’s silence about all that is how his allies want it; everyone knows the abortion-rights issue is a loser for him and Republicans in general.

“I just don’t want him to shoot off his mouth,” one anti-abortion ally told the New York Times recently. “I think the pro-life groups should keep their mouths shut as much as possible until the election.”

And the more we fixate on his current legal travails, to the exclusion of divining his future plans, the easier that cover-up will be.


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