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Eyeing a second Trump term, a personnel recruitment project takes shape

Those hoping to work in a possible Trump administration are facing a pre-screening questionnaire. The lines of inquiry speak volumes about today's GOP.

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For several decades, the Heritage Foundation has been more than a leading think tank for the right, it’s also helped serve as a farm team of sorts for Republican officials: GOP offices looking for qualified and professional staffers routinely turned to Heritage for personnel assistance. Starting in the Reagan era, this has been especially true of new presidential administrations.

With this recent history in mind, Axios reported a few weeks ago on the Heritage Foundation “pre-screening the ideologies” of thousands of people. The goal, the report added, is to “install a pre-vetted, pro-Trump army of up to 54,000 loyalists across government to rip off the restraints imposed on the previous 46 presidents.” These far-right ideologues would be deployed throughout the federal bureaucracy, taking on “legal, judicial, defense, regulatory and domestic policy jobs.”

Given Heritage’s central role in the “Project 2025” initiative, these efforts would have an enormous impact.

But late last week, Axios advanced the story, shining a light on “the exact questionnaires Trump allies are using” as part of the pre-screening process.

Many of the questions are predictable and anodyne. “Name one person, past or present, who has most influenced the development of your political philosophy,” one question reads. “Name a book that has most significantly shaped your political philosophy, and please explain its influence on your thinking,” reads another.

But a New York Times report touched on the lines of inquiry that were arguably the most important.

The questionnaire by the group, the Heritage Foundation, includes questions that suggest it is screening for applicants who want to embrace tariffs, reduce America’s military footprint overseas and remove executive branch officials who obstruct the president’s agenda. ... Candidates are asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement that “the president should be able to advance his/her agenda through the bureaucracy without hinderance from unelected federal officials.”

To appreciate just how much Trump has overhauled GOP orthodoxy, look no further than Heritage’s “Project 2025” questionnaire. When the institution was helping staff the Reagan and Bush administrations, there was an expectation that officials would support free trade, limited government, and a hawkish foreign policy vision.

All of this has been replaced with a MAGA-friendly alternative.

A veteran of the Trump White House told Axios that Heritage’s approach hopes to determine when would-be officials “got red-pilled.”

The alumnus added, “They want to see that you’re listening to Tucker [Carlson], and not pointing to the Reagan revolution or any George W. Bush stuff.”

Update: Heritage reached out and noted that Project 2025 is a "candidate-agnostic effort and does not speak for any candidate or campaign. That said, an NBC News' report noted, “While these groups can’t support a candidate outright, many of the people leading them or with longtime affiliations have close ties to Trump, having served in his administration, and some could be expected to retain his ear.”