How Trump’s second term could be different from his first

Former President Trump’s pursuit of a second term in the White House could lead to an administration stocked with loyalists who are laser-focused on implementing Trump’s agenda and are willing to cater to his whims.

Critics, including some who have worked closely with Trump, have expressed concerns that a second Trump administration would have fewer officials willing to act as guardrails and would enable the former president to act more impulsively, in part because of his lame duck status.

“That is one of my biggest concerns about a second Trump administration, is there would be no guardrails,” said Sarah Matthews, a former Trump spokesperson who has become a critic of the ex-president. “I think there were a lot of people in the first Trump administration who were very skeptical of him but believed it was their duty to serve, so they went to go work for him to try and, I think, guide him and put him on a better path.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who backed Trump in 2016 and 2020 before running a primary campaign against Trump in the 2024 race, told The Washington Post the prospect of a “vendetta tour” was his greatest fear about a possible second Trump term.

“There’ll be no one around to put guardrails up, and he will be on the vendetta tour against all enemies that he perceives,” Christie said. “And that’s a scary thing for the country.”

Trump’s first administration was stocked with more traditional Republicans who were seen as a bulwark against the then-president’s impulses and more controversial ideas.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis navigated Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks on torture, key alliances and global conflicts. Former chief of staff John Kelly sought to control the flow of information to Trump. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley pushed back on Trump’s calls for military crackdowns on protesters during civil unrest in 2020. And former Vice President Mike Pence refused Trump’s pressure campaign to reject the 2020 election results.

Miles Taylor, a former Trump administration staffer, in 2018 wrote an infamous and initially anonymous op-ed in The New York Times describing coordinated efforts from staff to “thwart” Trump’s worst instincts.

But with Trump fully in control of the Republican Party, the former president and his team appear poised to fill a possible second administration with more loyalists who have fully bought into Trumpism.

Conservative groups in Washington, D.C., are already working to identify potential staff for a second Trump administration, as seen most prominently in the Heritage Foundation’s “Project 2025” initiative, which is being led by former Trump White House officials Paul Dans and Spencer Chretien.

But the Trump campaign has sought to maintain its distance from outside groups putting forward policy or personnel proposals during the campaign, instead insisting Trump himself would make the final decision on senior leadership and other decisions when the time comes.

“There has been no discussion of who will serve in a second Trump administration. President Trump will choose the best people for his Cabinet to undo all the damage Crooked Joe Biden has done to our country,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement to The Hill.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, is expected to take a more active role in vetting potential staffers for a second administration, though a source familiar with the matter said Trump Jr. would not be running a potential transition or handling day-to-day staffing efforts.

Trump Jr. told the New York Post in a March interview that John Ratcliffe, former director of national intelligence, and former Trump White House aide Cliff Sims were among the people he envisioned leading a transition.

“There are so many great people to choose from now with the first four years of the administration, you have a good understanding of who would be great and loyal and implement the America First policies,” Trump Jr. said.

Some former aides have expressed a willingness to return to a potential second administration.

John McEntee, former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office who oversaw a brief effort at the tail end of the Trump administration to undermine the civil service system, is among those working on Project 2025.

McEntee was tapped to lead the project’s bid to collect resumes for the next administration, a process in which the organization is embracing the motto “personnel is policy.”

Meanwhile, Trump has said he would once again try to roll out the “Schedule F” order overseen by McEntee that would subject more civil service positions to swift firing, saying he would “wield that power very aggressively.” Trump could also allow more of his top officials to serve in an acting capacity — sidestepping Senate confirmation in a legally dubious move.

Stephen Miller, the architect of many of Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, has been active in laying out a vision for a second term, outlining even more restrictionist approaches the former president could take if reelected.

Miller told The New York Times last year that Trump would rely on his executive authorities to “implement the most spectacular migration crackdown” and pledged that they would “blitz” immigration attorneys.

Tom Homan, Trump’s former Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief, also said he was willing to come back for a second Trump administration to help “organize and run the largest deportation operation this country’s ever seen.”

Jeffrey Clark — a former Justice Department attorney who is facing charges in Georgia after he was prepared to launch a baseless investigation of the state’s vote totals on Trump’s behalf — is also involved in Project 2025.

A collection of Trump’s comments from the campaign trail and reports on GOP organizing, assembled by Just Security, details other plans for a reelected Trump to more robustly use his power.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr in a December Fox News interview similarly predicted the lack of potential electoral consequences could make Trump less likely to be swayed by advisers.

“During his first term, the main way that could be done is by pointing out to him how this would hurt his prospects for a second term,” he said. “Once he wins a second term, I don’t know, you know, what considerations can be used to push back against bad ideas.”

Barr this week said he would support the Republican ticket in November’s election.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.