"Freedom cities" and a "Department of Life": It's too late for Trump to ditch Project 2025

We can't forget what Donald Trump has been up to while Democrats have obsessed over President Biden

By Lucian K. Truscott IV


Published July 9, 2024 9:00AM (EDT)

Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at the Washington Hilton on June 24, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at the Washington Hilton on June 24, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

While Democrats have busied themselves arguing whether they should stick with the presidential candidate they’ve already got, the current president, or try to anoint someone – anyone—else, the Republican candidate has been playing a shell game trying to hide his support of the most extreme positions of (his) Republican Party. 

Where’s the abortion pea? Is it under the cup hiding the Supreme Court, which after Donald Trump’s three right-wing appointments overturned Roe v. Wade? Is it under the cup hiding the nationwide ban on abortion evangelicals support and House Republicans voted for? Or is it under the cup hiding the most extreme state laws on abortion which ban the procedure even for women who have been raped or suffered incest by a member of their own family?

There are nitty-gritty details to some of the proposals in Project 2025, and at least some of them involve variations on the leave-it-up-to-the- states theme of the Dobbs decision that overturned the right to abortion.

See why he’s playing a shell game? Trump is shifting the cups all over the table because you can smell his guilt on the abortion issue every time he opens his mouth. Everywhere he goes, at every rally, Trump brags that “his” justices overturned Roe v. Wade. But pressed for specifics on the issue, not even the words, all over the map, are adequate to describe Donald Trump on abortion laws. He’s for a 15-week national ban. No, he’s for a 16-week national ban.  Oops!  He’s against a national ban on abortion. Oops again! When the evangelicals attacked him on that one, he declined to endorse a national ban on abortion, putting out a video on Truth Social saying, “My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land — in this case, the law of the state.”

Got that gobbledegook? That’s Trump’s idea of how to sound “moderate” on the issue that most women consider the defining issue of our time: whether a woman is in control of her own body, or the state is. Trump keeps moving the cups around for the same reason the sharks won’t lift the cup a mark has chosen until his $20 is on the table: because there is no pea under any of the cups. The issue of abortion is as black and white as any issue could possibly be. Either you are for a woman’s right to have an abortion, or you’re not. Trump is trying to find a middle ground when there is no middle ground.

He managed to find what he would no doubt consider a middle ground on Monday when the Platform Committee of the Republican National Convention voted for an exceedingly abbreviated platform that rushed the process and fudged the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage by not taking a federal position on either. The Republican Party has opposed abortion at every convention since Roe v. Wade was passed more than 50 years ago.

But not this year, which is probably why Trump found it necessary to back away from Project 2025, the radical proposal by the Heritage Foundation for what a new Trump administration would look like and what its goals would be.  Project 2025’s position on abortion, put forward in a 920-page “Mandate” that was written or contributed to by dozens of former Trump administration officials, is straightforward: Life begins at conception. They want to turn the Department of Health and Human Services into the “Department of Life.” They want the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its approval for the two drugs used in most medical abortions, mifepristone and misoprostol (which the FDA ruled as safe many years ago.) They want their new “Department of Life” to require a record kept of how many abortions take place in all states, what was the reason for the abortion, where the woman lives, and what was the gestational age of “the child.” They want the rules requiring confidentiality of medical records lifted so that states can pursue criminal investigations of women who cross state lines to get an abortion. And they want the Trump Department of Justice to use the ancient and never-used Comstock Act to prosecute anyone using the mails to send or receive abortion pills. If the Comstock Act is enforced in the way advocated by Project 2025, it would criminalize the sending and receiving of medical equipment used in performing abortions, right down to face masks and medical scrubs.

Could that be why Trump issued this passel of lies on Truth Social last week?

As Mary McCarthy famously said of her political and literary rival Lillian Hellman, every word of that statement is a lie, including “and” and “the.”

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Trump is trying to run away from Project 2025 when, according to Judd Legum’s Popular Information, “Of the 38 people responsible for writing and editing Project 2025, 31 were appointed or nominated to positions in the Trump administration and transition. In other words, while Trump claims he has "nothing to do" with the people who created Project 2025, over 81% had formal roles in his first administration.”

According to New York Magazine, the plans for a Trumpian future in Project 2025 are doubled down by something called Trump’s Agenda 47, which they’ve cobbled together from a series of videos and papers put out on Truth Social.  In the videos, Trump’s positions are stated in a series of Q & A’s. In one, Trump goes beyond Project 2025 Hitlerian calls for having states keep records of abortions performed. Trump is asked if states should “monitor women’s pregnancies to make sure they are not terminated.” His answer is chilling: “I think they might do that. Again, you’ll have to speak to the individual states. Look, Roe v. Wade was all about bringing it back to the states.”

See how easy that is? The answers on abortion are all about “bringing it back to the states” and giving them free rein.  The state of Idaho is having to be forced by court order (still to face adjudication by Trump’s Supreme Court) to obey the federal law that requires emergency rooms to perform abortions if they are deemed necessary to save the life or health of the mother, in addition to that of the fetus.

Both Project 2025 and Agenda 47 want to end birthright citizenship, established by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. They want to allow the DOJ to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” Biden and other Trump enemies.  They want to purge the Civil Service of “disloyal” federal employees and replace them with Trump loyalists – which would involve firing thousands of federal workers protected by Civil Service laws passed by Congress. Naturally, both projects endorse rounding up, imprisoning, and deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, many of whom are awaiting court dates for hearings on applications for asylum. This operation would entail the deployment of up to 300,000 soldiers to get the job done. The Trump proposals would upend decades of laws intended to benefit minorities to compensate for decades of discrimination that goes back to slavery and turn the laws around to benefit white people.

But here’s my favorite: Agenda 47 proposes the establishment of so-called “freedom cities” on federal land. In one of his unhinged videos, Trump describes it thusly: “These Freedom Cities will reopen the frontier, reignite American imagination, and give hundreds of thousands of young people and other people, all hardworking families, a new shot at home ownership and in fact, the American Dream.”

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I leave it to your imagination who would pick the “young people” and “other people” and “hardworking families” to live in these freedom cities, what criteria would be used, and where the funding would come from, but I guarantee you it will be some version of “leave it up to the states.”

There are nitty-gritty details to some of the proposals in Project 2025, and at least some of them involve variations on the leave-it-up-to-the- states theme of the Dobbs decision that overturned the right to abortion. They want to leave it to the states regarding the teaching of history that would include bans on teaching about slavery such as those Texas and other states have passed. They want to leave anti-pornography laws up to the states, which would probably mean that panels of Moms for Liberty types would be picking and choosing not only what children read in schools, but what books are allowed to be in libraries or even sold in bookstores. 

You can see where this is leading, can’t you? Leaving it up to the states was at the center of segregation laws in this country that were overturned by Brown v. Board of Education and other landmark federal civil rights decisions and the Civil Rights Act. What is to prevent the Trump Supreme Court from revisiting Brown to leave it up to the states to pass whatever laws they want regarding racial equity and opportunity? Do you think either the Trump Supreme Court or a new Trump administration would have any trouble with new state laws allowing segregated housing and schools?  If you don’t, you’re dreaming.

These people are radical and they’re organized. While Democrats squabble over who is going to be on the ticket in November, Trump and the authors of Project 2025 and Agenda 47 know exactly what they will do if he is elected on November 5. White Republicans and rich Republicans will win the lottery, and everyone else will be stuck buying ticket —if they can find them, because lottery sales will probably be left up to the states as well.  

By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. You can read his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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Abortion Agenda 47 Commentary Dobbs Donald Trump Gop Heritage Foundation Pro-life Project 2024 Republicans Rnc