Project 2025 Part 5: Absolute Authority

In order to enact their plans, Project 2025 needs absolute authority, how will they achieve this?

Project 2025 Part 5: Absolute Authority
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This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Project 2025

In the previous parts of this series, we’ve seen how Project 2025 aims to install their own staff in key positions, remove people and positions that are against their aims and surround the President with acolytes who will do his (or her) bidding.

But how are they going to be able to do this? Surely there are rules and regulations in place to stop what would essentially be an authoritarian takeover of a democratic government? Well yes… and no.

Here in the UK, when a government changes you get extremely few key personnel changes. The incoming Prime Minister appoints a cabinet and a few other positions but the majority of governmental roles (Head of the Armed Forces, Treasury, Supreme Court etc.) are filled by people who have been chosen by panels of their peers or committees of experts, they are not changed when a new Government is appointed.

In America however, the President has the power to appoint people into key roles[1]Wikipedia: List of positions filled by presidential appointment with Senate confirmation (with Senate approval), this means that the President can directly influence departments by placing loyalists at their helm.

This also means that departments and key personnel are in sync when it comes to policy decisions allowing (in theory) the President to operate in an efficient and effective manner with little pushback on their law or policy changes.

Where this plan falters though are agencies where they are largely staffed by industry experts such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While the agency Director may be appointed by the President, the agencies themselves have the ability to pass their own legislation that doesn’t necessarily need to go through Congress and therefore have a lot more autonomy than other departments.

In order to have full control over their policies, the President would have to remove these civil servants from office but there are protections in place to stop them doing that – or are there?

Unitary Executive Theory

In Article 2 of the United States Constitution it says that “vests the executive power in ‘a president of the United States'[2]University Of Chicago Press: The Unitary Executive: Past, Present, Future” which essentially means that no one apart from the President has executive power over all parts of the government. Because a sole person is in charge this is therefore called “Unitary” power.

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Depending on who you ask whether this unitary power should be “weak” or “strong” varies. If it’s the former then Congress has a bigger say in the hiring and firing of executive branch officials, if it’s the latter then they should have little to no say in the executive decision making process at all.

Project 2025 leans towards the idea of the President having strong unitary powers meaning that the President can make any and all decisions with little-to-no input from Congress.

American’s saw this in action during the George H.W Bush’s Presidency where, after 9/11, he signed sweeping laws allowing him to enact military operations and campaigns without the need of approval from Congress[3]The Justice Journal: Unitary Executive Theory: The Legality of Ultimate Power and Trump appointed Justice Kavanaugh “finds the Unitary Executive Theory necessary in specific cases”[4]Id.

So essentially, under Unitary Executive Theory the President could fire anyone he wants or enact any bill without the need for Congressional approval and, if someone does object and it goes to the Supreme Court? Well that’s leaning 5-4 to the Republicans with Trump himself having appointed 3 out of the 9 justices – would they find against him though?

That leads us on to Schedule F.

Schedule F

On the 21st October 2020, then-President Trump enacted an Executive Order known as “13957”[5]Wikipedia: Schedule F Appointment which required the heads of all federal agencies to supply lists of all people who could be classed as “Schedule F” employees.

As a rule, civil servants – those permanently employed at agencies rather than being chosen by the President – are afforded more employment protection which makes it harder for them to be removed from their positions.

The Trump administration decided they could get around these employment protections by classifying people they wanted to remove from roles as “Schedule F” employees.

A Schedule F employee is identified as one who holds:

Positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition shall be listed in Schedule F[6]Federal Register: Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service

By classifying civil servants under this new schedule, the administration can remove protections from certain classes of employees and easily remove them from their posts.

When you couple this with the database of people that Project 2025 has put together (as discussed in Part 2 of this series), you can start to see how dangerous Schedule F truly is.

Fortunately President Biden repealed the Schedule F[7]The Whitehouse: Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce Executive Order and added in some extra protections for civil servants but some feel that with a stacked Supreme Court and Unitary Executive Authority on their side, a Republican President can remove any civil servant from their position, for any reason and replace them with whoever they want to.

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As far back as March 2022 Trump was already saying he would bring back Schedule F[8]Axios: How Trump could reimpose “Schedule F” in 2025 stating:

“We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States. The deep state must and will be brought to heel.[9]Government Executive: Trump Is Threatening the Return and Expansion of Schedule F

So when we couple this with Trump’s assertion that he’s won’t be a dictator “except for day one[10]AP News: Trump’s vow to only be a dictator on ‘day one’ follows growing worry over his authoritarian rhetoric”:

It’s almost certain that a Republican President would gut the civil service and agencies they don’t control without Congress being able to stop it happening.

But this is all Project 2025’s vision of a future for America, what does Trump have to say about what he’ll do if he wins the 2024 election? We’ll discuss that in Part 6 when we compare Project 2025 to Trump’s Agenda47.

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