Donald Trump’s fake rejection of Project 2025 has angered his biggest fans

Steve Bannon has been in prison just over a week, and already one can see the strain on MAGA world, lost without their boss man to tell them what to think. Bannon’s absence from the scene may be the single best explanation for why some of the loudest trolls on the right are now griping at Donald Trump for pretending he isn’t tightly entwined with the notorious Project 2025. Talia Jane at the New Republic reports that Infowars host Alex Jones is leading the charge to castigate Trump, not for his 34 felony convictions, but for temporarily pretending to be moderate in order to win the presidential election. 

“Trump gets told by his advisers and people who really just don’t want competition in his new White House,” Jones complained on Monday’s show. “Oh God, these are radicals, sir. You’ve got to come out and distance yourself.” 

Jones and his audience appear to understand that Trump was flat-out lying when he posted on Friday, “I know nothing about Project 2025.” It’s not just that a sea of reporters immediately established the intricate web of interactions between Trump and his former and likely future staffers who are running Project 2025, or that the organizers of Project 2025 have been upfront that theirs is the playbook for how a second Trump term will look. It’s also that Trump lies about everything, to the point where his claim he knows “nothing” about Project 2025 may as well have been an admission that it is, as it seems to be, the true Republican Party platform. 

No, Jones seems to be mad because he doesn’t like the implication of this lie, which is that Trump believes it will turn off swing voters if they realize he is planning a national ban on abortion, widespread censorship, Social Security cuts, and decimating environment regulation — to name just a few of the wildly unpopular policy details of Project 2025. Instead, Jones suggests Trump wants to be out there, bragging about his plans for a fascist America, but is being constrained by those scaredy-cat scolds who foolishly believe Americans aren’t thrilled at the idea of the United States Reich. 

“It’s the Heritage Foundation, Trump. And again, Trump’s really smart; he’s got good instincts. He doesn’t understand Republican machinery,” Jones said. 

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Jones isn’t the only MAGA influencer pushing the notion that Trump would do better to publicly embrace Project 2025. Hitler-admiring Trump dining companion Nick Fuentes was tweeting up a storm of complaints, Jane reports. Fuentes accused Trump of “assimilation into the establishment” and appeared even to believe Trump was actually disavowing Project 2025. “Trump folded,” Fuentes argued. 

It is possible that these two are playing 11th-level chess and realize that by denouncing Trump they are bolstering Trump’s efforts to appear more moderate. But that’s doubtful, especially since they risk discouraging their audiences from voting, which would be very bad for Trump, who depends on the conspiracy theory dirtbags to help him win what may still be a close race in November. Which is why I like my theory that these folks are rudderless without Bannon giving out daily marching orders from his podcast “The War Room.” Bannon is good at making even the biggest morons in his audience feel like they’re part of Trump’s nefarious schemes. I have no doubt he could convince them to play along with the strategy of pretending Project 2025 isn’t Trump’s real agenda. 

It’s worth remembering that the whole point of Project 2025 was to create the illusion of distance between Trump’s campaign and Trump’s actual agenda. Close Trump aide John McEntee, one of the architects of Project 2025, explained as much in April, telling the Daily Wire, “keeping the two separate is actually the most beneficial way to go about it.”

Trump learned a lot from being on “The Apprentice” about the power of illusion. The reality of Trump’s business was that it was a ramshackle affair that bled money at an almost unfathomable rate. It’s clear now that the business only survived because of decades of fraud that a court estimated to be, at minimum, hundreds of millions in illegally gotten gains. Producers report that his offices were unusable as a set, because they were in such disrepair, and NBC ended up building out the “boardroom” and other rooms that were passed off on-air as Trump’s real offices. But with the ol’ Hollywood magic, they were able to convince millions of Americans that Trump was a successful businessman.

Trump’s playing the same game with his campaign. The Trump packaged and sold to the larger public is a “moderate” businessman who denies wanting to ban abortion, take away health care, or decimate social spending. The actual Trump is a seething criminal whose desire to inflict punishment on most Americans for rejecting him happens to coincide with the fascistic urges of his Christian nationalist supporters. 

Trump’s reliance on reality TV tactics creates a topsy-turvy situation where what is “official” is fake and offered up only for show. His real staff and real agenda are kept at a legal distance through paperwork and outside funding, but in terms of influence matter far more than the people and plans that are formally attached to his actual campaign. The Republican National Committee, for instance, technically has a platform this year, but it was whittled into a meaningless document by the Trump campaign, to avoid all the negative press that would follow if the party was honest about what it plans to do with power. For all intents and purposes, Project 2025 is the real GOP platform.

More of the public seems to be realizing there are two Trump campaigns, the shiny reality TV one and the real one, which is a lot scarier. As I wrote about last week, there are emerging signs that the larger public, and not just political junkies, are hearing about Project 2025. More importantly, they seem to understand that it’s Project 2025 and not whatever “official” documents the RNC releases that should be taken seriously as the real Trump agenda. Indeed, the hope of keeping the illusion of distance between Trump and Project 2025 is fading so fast that the folks at Project 2025 — who used to only be too happy to brag about their radical agenda — and now scrambling to put a moderate mask on their own faces. 

On Tuesday, Project 2025 posted a lengthy, defensive tweet falsely claiming to offer “MYTHS VS. FACTS ABOUT PROJECT 2025.” In classic Trumpian fashion, most of their supposed “facts” were deliberate distortions, some so egregious as to only deserve the word “lie.” For instance, they deny supporting a national ban on abortions without exception. In fact, the playbook openly calls for a Trump administration to revive the 1873 Comstock Act to “prohibit the mailing and interstate carriage of abortion drugs.” If the drugs cannot be legally transported, that is the same as a national ban. The document also repeatedly denies abortion is “health care,” which is an unsubtle way of denying any medical need for it. 

It would get tedious to go point-by-point and debunk all the disinformation on this tweet, though I do hope some enterprising journalists are doing so. What’s more interesting is they felt the need to feign moderation and pretend it’s their critics who are the “radical” ones here. It was only last week that the head of Heritage Foundation, which has taken the lead in running Project 2025, was bragging about how he’s at the helm of a “second American Revolution” that will only “remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.” 

It only took a week to go from pretending they’re kings on “Game of Thrones” bellowing “submit or face the sword” to squeaking about how they’re not so bad, just misunderstood. It’s not nearly as fun as fantasizing about mass murder of “the left,” but it is a good sign that the people behind Project 2025 are beginning to realize they’re not hiding from the larger public as well as they used to. 

From a certain angle, the anger from Jones and Fuentes makes sense. Trump isn’t successfully distancing himself from Project 2025. If anything, his denials are only drawing more public interest. Trump’s ability to deny knowledge is landing as well as his routine claim to not know some woman he’s been photographed leering at. They’re also not wrong to believe it will be easier for Trump to make Project 2025 a reality if he wins by campaigning on it, rather than hiding it away like it’s his wedding ring and he’s in a golf tournament. Mostly, however, they know their audience wants desperately to believe they’re speaking for some silent majority. Instead, Trump himself understands that most Americans, if they hear what’s in Project 2025, will run away screaming. 

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