Behind Trump’s courthouse spectacle a dark reality remains concealed

Project 2025 would destroy the United States and make Trump a defacto king

By Brian Karem


Published May 23, 2024 9:23AM (EDT)

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R) (R-CO) looks on as former US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 16, 2024. (MIKE SEGAR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R) (R-CO) looks on as former US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 16, 2024. (MIKE SEGAR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Years ago, while covering the trial of a leader of the “Texas Syndicate,” a criminal organization with roots in the Lone Star State, I noticed half a dozen spectators who showed up every day. They dressed the same as the man on trial. They had the same tattoos, the same hairstyles and the same attitude. I took a chance and spoke with them one day and found they were members of the gang who showed up to pay their respects. They were cordial enough to me as I offered no immediate threat. But I was curious and asked them if they weren’t concerned they would be identified and targeted by law enforcement for showing up every day. One of them just laughed. “They know who we are,” he explained. “We dress this way to show our power and our respect.”

Seeing House Speaker Mike Johnson, Congressman Matt Gaetz and fish oil salesman Sebastian Gorka show up at the Trump felony trial in Manhattan recently reminded me a lot of that Texas trial from so long ago. In Trump’s case, he is surrounded by a small number of rabid supporters of a criminal cause who need the safety of numbers because they cannot stand alone. They have all the individual courage of the cowards they truly are. Or they remind me of the characters in “Freaks." You know, “One of us. One of us.”

The members of the Texas Syndicate, for the record, showed more individual courage and respect to reporters and other spectators (with the exception of the police) than Trump’s MAGA sycophants.

The Trump team is great at garnering attention for their antics as well as Trump’s. Reporters are quick to jump on every outlandish statement or action. During Trump’s trial, we’ve seen, heard or read about a wide variety of wild behavior ranging from inappropriate flatulence to extended napping. When the Trump team recently published a social media video encouraging a “unified Reich,” it created a storm of protest from people who wanted to compare Trump to Adolph Hitler. 

President Biden himself chimed in with that comparison at a campaign event Tuesday in Boston. “’A unified Reich.’ That’s not the language of an American president. That’s not the language of any American. That’s the language of Hitler’s Germany.” As Biden’s re-election team noted, all three network evening news broadcasts and all three network late night shows covered the “unified Reich” announcement.

The spectacle certainly drew a lot of attention and the Truth Social post from Trump that sparked the controversy stayed up for 18 hours before being removed. The Trump team blamed a staffer for a mistake. But, mistake or not, it does speak to Trump’s aspirations if he’s re-elected. Few have spoken, specifically, what those aspirations are and many are content to say what Steve Colbert said Tuesday night, “MAGA now stands for Make American Germany Around 1938.”

Those who support Trump do not care, and in fact are proud of the statement. Most of America, dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal recoil at the statement, but little realize the true horror that statement and Trump’s actions represent.

We are caught like cats pawing at baubles while missing the true depravity of another Trump presidency. What is behind the spectacle is of greater concern. Do not take from me. Do not take it from the Democrats. Take it from no one else but the Republicans themselves and take it to the bank from The Heritage Foundation and Project 2025.

Project 2025 can be found online. It is a comprehensive and practical guide of policy proposals to thoroughly reshape the federal government should the Republicans seize power after the 2024 election. Philosophically it is alarming. It interprets the Declaration of Independence’s “pursuit of happiness” as “pursuit of blessedness,” and Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts writes that a good life is found above all in “religious devotion and spirituality.” 

We are caught like cats pawing at baubles while missing the true depravity of another Trump presidency. What is behind the spectacle is of greater concern. 

Of course, that means Christian devotion and spirituality, not anyone else’s religion or fervor.

It is the Christian Nationalist’s guide to government, with a few other headaches inserted as well. Should Trump win the 2024 election the project wants to replace federal civil servants with patronage jobs – people who owe their allegiance to the Republican MAGA party. The U.S. government established a merit-based system of selecting government officials and supervising their work with the 1883 Pendleton Act. That act was established following the assassination of President James A. Garfield by a disgruntled job seeker. President Chester A. Arthur, a Republican, signed it into law.

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The Heritage Foundation wants to destroy merit-based employment, saying that doing so would eliminate the “Deep State." It ignores history and the very roots of the Republican Party – and instead would help bring about a monarchy – with employees who owe everything to the President and his party. It doesn’t want to eliminate a Deep State – it only wishes to own it. 

That’s okay because Project 2025 also envisions a president with absolute power who will slash funding to the Department of Justice, dismantle the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security and sharply reduce climate change regulations, eliminate the Department of Commerce, destroy the independence of the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. The Project recommends abolishing the Department of Education and would only fund federal scientific research if it suits “conservative principles.”

The Project’s goals would destroy LGBTQ rights, according to President Joe Biden, “taking America back decades,” and would encourage racial discrimination by hindering minorities' ability to “purchase homes and raise families where they choose.”

Biden’s 2024 spokesperson James Singer released the following statement this week, “Trump and his allies’ dreams of making him a dictator on ‘day one’ are an assault on our democracy and Constitution. Trump has been clear, he will attempt to punish those who stand against him, condone and even encourage violence done on his behalf, and put his own revenge and retribution ahead of what is best for America.”

Destroying the FCC would help Trump institute state-owned media and destroy criticism of the government. Defunding the DOJ and other government agencies would also make scrutiny of the government much more difficult. It is next to impossible to get the government to respond to Freedom of Information Requests now. Imagine how ridiculous it would be if Trump guts the federal government instead of fully funding FOIA offices. We would rarely, if ever, know what the Federal government had in mind until it came knocking on your door and dragging you out to be thrown in a prison and forgotten.

Donald Trump’s attempts to catch your attention with his narcissistic and juvenile behavior therefore mask dark deeds and desires. It isn’t enough to say Trump would burn it all to the ground, which he would, it is also imperative that we in the media show the voters exactly how he would do it. We have done a horrible job informing people of that. 

We cover the scatological, the prurient and the juvenile at the expense of explaining to people why Trump is so dangerous, and in doing so, we add to the risk of Trump’s return to office. I am no partisan. The Biden administration feels almost the same about me as the Trump administration, but it is clear: Trump cannot return as president or we’re done. 

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That said, large, sweeping general statements can no longer suffice. The electorate remains numb to those. And it is counterproductive to play with the shiny baubles Trump dangles in front of us.

Look at the specifics. Pay attention. Should Trump be re-elected, Project 2025 recommends that the future president immediately deploy the military for domestic law enforcement and directs the DOJ (or what’s left of it after it is gutted) to arrest adversaries by invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807. Project director Paul Dans, a former Trump administration official, explained that Project 2025 is "systematically preparing to march into office and bring a new army, aligned, trained, and essentially weaponized conservatives ready to do battle against the deep state."

While Project 2025 doesn’t promote a specific candidate, many of those involved are acolytes and fans of Trump’s – and no doubt have a dark blue suit, a white shirt and a red tie in their closets at home. Those suits are as ubiquitous among MAGA members as leather and chains in certain biker gangs and bed sheets among KKK members.

The project also wants to outlaw pornography – good luck defining that much less outlawing it. It wishes to abolish the Pentagon’s diversity, equity and inclusion program and wishes a loyalty test to be used as a determining factor in hiring new government employees or firing existing employees.

I remain loyal to the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. Those loyal to Trump in many cases knowingly flaunt their disrespect for both – while others merely remain unaware of Trump’s danger.

We have just a few precious months left to educate those people.

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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