With less than a year until the 2024 election, the Republican universe is coming together to seamlessly advise the White House transition of the GOP nominee — or is it?
While publicly, groups such as the America First Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation and Turning Point USA present a kumbaya vision, multiple Republicans working on transition projects tell Cockburn that rough seas are ahead, particularly as competition heats up for credit, attention and donors.
Tensions between these groups boiled over in recent weeks. James Bacon, a former low-level Trump bureaucrat-turned senior advisor at Heritage, wrote — perhaps accidentally — to his AFPI counterparts, skewering them as a “Trojan horse by which the establishment can retake control of personnel.”
But it’s not just Bacon’s closed-door emails that are dividing transition efforts. Another particular issue is a split in candidate preference among the top brass at the Heritage Foundation and its own Project 2025.
Senior members of Project 2025 such as former OMB director Russ Vought favor Donald Trump, while the Heritage Foundation’s president Kevin Roberts and other Heritage staff continue to embrace Ron DeSantis, even as the Florida governor finds his campaign failing to meet expectations.
Roberts hosted DeSantis as Heritage’s first speaker at its 2024 showcase — and earlier this year, the Heritage Foundation and the DeSantis campaign team had “near-daily conversations” and “monthly” in-person meetings.
Even Roberts’s Twitter is replete with anti-Trump activity, including liking videos posted by anti-Trump groups such as the Republican Accountability Project and posts by NeverTrump activists like Heath Mayo. Roberts has also “liked” a lot of pro-DeSantis content. “The former president values loyalty and this isn’t a good look,” said one GOP operative. “He’s cut people out of his orbit for far less.”
Heritage has been vetting what it claims to be over 4,000 possible staff with intense policy-related questions and social media post reviews to “pre-screen loyalists.” Project 2025 may want to look at the social media of their own president, who might fail to pass muster on their own vetting standards.
The flip side of Roberts’s anti-Trump Twitter antics is that if DeSantis stuns the world and wins, Heritage would find itself in the driver’s seat.
On the pro-Trump side of Project 2025, Vought took a blowtorch to the Federalist Society, telling the New York Times that the legal group doesn’t know what time it is, arguing the group is insufficiently pro-Trump. The Trump campaign released a statement Monday evening that many view as an indirect response to Project 2025’s media circus, dismissing any outside efforts as “purely speculative and theoretical.”