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Trump Knew Nothing of Project 2025—but He Also Didn’t Like It!

His denials of knowledge about the Heritage Foundation project didn’t come close to passing the smell test. Media coverage did not live up to the moment.

Donald Trump speaks into a microphone
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Project 2025, a radical blueprint developed by the Heritage Foundation, is designed to reshape America under a potential second Trump administration. Recently, the project has drawn increased scrutiny and criticism in mainstream media, causing visible unease within Trump’s camp.

Notably, Taraji P. Henson, host of this year’s BET Awards, called out the plan, and John Oliver dedicated nearly 30 minutes of a recent Last Week Tonight episode to explaining what it would mean for Americans.

But it wasn’t until Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts, during a July 2 appearance on Steve Bannon’s War Room show, responded to a question about “what the Heritage Foundation is doing to protect the rule of law and to protect individuals in this great country” with a boast that “we are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be,” that Trumpworld seemed ready to hit the panic button.

See, talk of there being a “second American Revolution” and hinting that it will remain “bloodless” only if your political enemies sit back and let you have your way may play well with Bannon’s audience, but it’s not exactly the type of thing your average swing voter thinks of as normal. That’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise when Donald Trump posted to his Truth Social account, in an attempt to distance himself from the project.

“I know nothing about Project 2025,” he wrote. “I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

Trump, however, knows quite a bit about Project 2025 and the people behind it. His campaign press secretary, Karoline Leavitt, has appeared in a Project 2025 recruitment video. Trump White House chief of personnel John McEntee and Trump White House budget chief Russell Vought are both high-profile Project 2025 architects. Dozens of the listed authors of Project 2025’s “Mandate for Leadership” document were affiliated with the first Trump administration or his current presidential campaign. Pro-Trump PACs are running pro-Project 2025 ads online.

In a January 2018 blog post, the Heritage Foundation bragged, “One year after taking office, President Donald Trump and his administration have embraced nearly two-thirds of the policy recommendations from The Heritage Foundation’s ‘Mandate for Leadership.’”

But we’re supposed to believe that Trump has “no idea” who the Heritage Foundation is? (He’s spoken at the Heritage Foundation before.) And we’re supposed to believe he doesn’t know who people like his adviser, Stephen Miller (seen in a Project 2025 recruitment video sitting in front of a stack of “Mandate for Leadership” books) are? Well, as Don Moynihan joked at his Can We Still Govern? Substack, then maybe it’s Donald Trump who’s showing signs of cognitive decline, as he can’t seem to recognize some of his closest aides!

All kidding aside, Trump is obviously just lying.

It’s really that simple. It’s worked for him in the past, and it’ll work for him in the future.

But even his denial of knowledge comes with its own contradictions. As Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling wrote at The New Republic: “How can Trump both know nothing about Project 2025 and ‘disagree’ with it? He doesn’t say. But it’s clear that he recognizes that the plan is a growing political liability.”

Writing at The Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist Will Bunch said: “I wish Trump luck in getting a single person, on either side of the political divide, to believe that he knows nothing about Project 2025 yet somehow knows that he disagrees with most of it. Indeed, this is Trump’s 2024 version of the Big Lie, demoting his absurd debate statement that, contrary to his real-time boasts, ‘I didn’t have sex with a porn star’ to only his second-biggest falsehood of the summer. The tangled web between Project 2025 and Trump’s deepest inner circle is too public and too improbable to explain away.”

If all of this is so obvious, why lie? Because a certain segment of the press will (mostly) let him get away with it. But this is where the media needs to step up and do better. Simply parroting Trump’s claims in headlines, as a number of outlets did in touting his disavowals, is a disservice to the public—both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post ran credulous headlines that took Trump’s words at face value. It’s essential for journalists to ask the tough questions and demand specific answers.

For instance, what exactly does Trump disagree with in Project 2025? Which parts of the 900-page document does he find “ridiculous and abysmal”? The media should hold him accountable by not accepting vague denials at face value. The real story lies in the details that Trump is avoiding.

Trump’s disavowal of Project 2025 is not just a simple denial; it’s a strategic move to distance himself from a plan that could alienate moderate voters. By feigning ignorance, he aims to deflect responsibility while maintaining plausible deniability. But the connections are too deep and too public to ignore.

Journalists must delve into Project 2025’s specifics and implications. They should scrutinize the involvement of Trump’s close allies and campaign members and challenge him to clarify his stance on the policies outlined in the plan. The press must not allow Trump to escape scrutiny by merely issuing blanket denials.

The stakes are too high to let this slide. Project 2025 outlines significant changes that could affect millions of Americans, particularly the most vulnerable. As Henson and Oliver highlighted, this is not a game. The public should know what’s at stake and where their potential leaders stand on these crucial issues.

Ultimately, the media’s role is to inform the public, not to provide a platform for unchallenged propaganda. In the case of Project 2025, this means digging deeper, asking tougher questions, and not letting go until they get the answers that the American people deserve. There has been some great coverage of Project 2025, and I hope it continues, but the headlines related to Trump’s “disavowal” were a step backward.