Donald Trump is preparing to clean house if he gets a second term in office.
A major obstacle standing in the way of Trump establishing a Victor Orban-like dictatorship in his first term was the government bureaucracy – tens of thousands of mid and upper level government bureaucrats who would not simply bend to his will. There were the generals who “slow walked” his more zany orders, for example. Trump was unable to get the (in)Justice Department to really crack down the way he wanted. Internal resistance prevented him from seizing ballot boxes after the 2020 election. And, in fact, it was made clear to him that the top command structure of the military would outright refuse to carry out any “illegal” order. It was this resistance that forced Trump to go the violent coup rout, and since the entire state apparatus was not under his direct, personal control, a successful violent coup was never a realistic possibility.
Nor was Pence’s life really in danger. The real danger was to the lives of the rioters. Had they gotten near to Pence, there would have been a “massacre” said Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short. Those massacred would have been the rioters, as the secret service detail would have opened fire.
According to an article in Axios, though, if he gets back into office in 2024, Trump would clean house. Towards the end of his first presidency, Trump had established a “Schedule F” of federal government officials. These were tens of thousands of mid level officials who would be considered as political appointees and could (and would) be replaced with Trump loyalists. Traditionally, the far right sees such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as the enemy that has to be stopped. The Axios article explains that Trump now sees things differently: “Sources close to the former president say that he will – as a matter of top priority — go after the national security apparatus, “clean house” in the intelligence community and the State Department, target the “woke generals” at the Defense Department, and remove the top layers of the Justice Department and FBI.”
“Others, who remain close to Trump and would be in contention for the most senior roles in a second-term administration, include Dan Scavino, John McEntee, Richard Grenell, Kash Patel, Robert O’Brien, David Bernhardt, John Ratcliffe, Peter Navarro and Pam Bondi,” Axios writes. Others who would be elevated into command probably include Jeffrey Clark into the Justice Department and Trump loyalists and former secret service agents Tony Ornato (who went to work for the Trump reelection committee) and Dan Bongino (now a talk radio show host).
One question is whether Trump could get nominations like that of Jeffrey Clark for attorney general through the senate. But if Trump can get reelected – by hook or by crook – it’s likely he could get a Republican majority that would bend to his every wish.
The point is that Trump has learned his lesson. He cannot just rely upon traditional conservatives and there are enough Trump loyalists out there to form a team that he could use to seize unchecked power. Nor can he just go it alone. He needs a team and he is building just that.