The great “will he, won’t he” of US politics looks set to finally be answered in the next few weeks as Donald Trump is expected to announce he will stand for a second term as president in 2024.
Spurred on by the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago home, which has galvanised even his Republican critics amid claims of a political witch-hunt, a series of Trump-backed candidates have swept the primaries ahead of November’s mid-terms. “Now is the time many believe for Trump to declare his candidacy,” said Sky News.
Here is what a second term might have in store were Trump to contest, and win, the next presidential election.
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What did the papers say?
Axios has reported that Trump’s top allies are “preparing to radically reshape the federal government if he is re-elected, purging potentially thousands of civil servants and filling career posts with loyalists to him and his ‘America First’ ideology”. This is something that Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin said “should scare the crap out of you”.
Quoting sources close to the former president, Axios said the impact “could go well beyond typical conservative targets” such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. There are reportedly also plans to strip down the State Department, Pentagon and Justice Department, which includes the FBI. The bureau has become the new number one “deep state” target of Trump and his supporters following the raid on his home.
Earlier this year, the former president “conjured a vision of a second term that would function as a tool of personal vengeance, and become even more authoritarian than his first, when he vowed to pardon US Capitol insurrectionists if he runs for the White House again and wins”, reported CNN.
If Trump does return to the White House, “he will be surrounded by fewer advisers interested in moderating or restraining his impulses”, The Washington Post reported.
The paper sets out six specific proposals that could form the centrepiece of his second term platform. These include an emphasis on law and order, specifically pursuing the death penalty for drug traffickers; moving homeless people to “tent cities” on the outskirts of metropolitan areas; and deploying federal and military force against civil unrest and protests, as set out in a 2020 op-ed by Arkansas’ Republican senator Tom Cotton in The New York Times.
As part of an overhaul of the civil service and his efforts to “drain the swamp” of Washington DC, Trump would look to strip job protections for federal workers, making it easier to fire them. The Washington Post claimed he would also look to cut back or even scrap the Education Department, which is on the front line in the culture wars, with Republican candidates trying to capitalise on parents’ objections to instruction about racism, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, he would look to restrict voting to just one day using paper ballots only. The move, driven by a belief the 2020 presidential election was stolen through a combination of forged postal ballots and electronic voting machines, would seriously restrict voting access and favour Republican candidates.
Much depends on the outcome of several ongoing investigations into Trump and his activities. It was reported earlier his month that the former president is being investigated under the Espionage Act for allegedly removing classified documents from the White House. He also faces a separate investigation into his past business dealings and an inquiry into whether he incited the Capitol riot in January 2021.
While there are some in the Republican Party who believe a conviction excluding Trump from running for office again would be a blessing in disguise, the numerous charges against him have galvanised his supporters and “may spur him on in the belief running for the White House will make it more challenging to charge him”, said Sky News. “If he is indicted it promises to be the mother of all legal, political and constitutional crises,” the broadcaster added.
In communications reviewed by The Guardian, a source “close to Trump” indicated he needed to announce his intention to run as soon as possible “because politically it would be harder for the US Department of Justice to indict a candidate for office than a former president out of the electoral running”.
All this makes it more likely than not he will announce his decision to run again, perhaps as soon as September. A recent poll reported by Fox News showed Trump as the overwhelming favourite for the 2024 Republican nomination among the conservative grassroots.
“Prepare yourself,” said Sky News. “If you thought Trump, the first coming was crazy enough, just wait for the sequel.”
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