Trump Campaign Swats Down Heritage Foundation Transition Effort Led by Longtime DeSantis Ally

Foundation president Kevin Roberts has lauded DeSantis's 'courage,' praised governor's education policies

(Trump White House Archived, YouTube)
November 14, 2023

The Trump campaign distanced itself on Monday from a transition project led by the Heritage Foundation and other aligned groups that have broadcast their efforts to screen staffers for a second Trump administration and root out dissenters via social media posts.

Trump advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita on Monday distanced the campaign from the Heritage-led effort, saying that those plans are "not authorized in any way."

"Any personnel lists, policy agendas, or government plans published anywhere are merely suggestions," the statement says. "Policy recommendations from external allies are just that—recommendations."

While the Trump campaign's statement did not mention the Heritage Foundation by name, the conservative think tank is behind the largest effort to "prepare for the next conservative presidential administration" through its Project 2025, a sprawling endeavor that employs a slew of Trump administration loyalists.

Project 2025 director Paul Dans served as chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management. Trump loyalist John McEntee, who led the White House Office of Presidential Personnel as the administration purged dissenters in its closing months, is a senior adviser to the effort.

Outside of Project 2025, however, Heritage has worked closely with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who is challenging Trump for the Republican nomination.

Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts and others have traveled regularly to Tallahassee to meet with the Florida governor and have shaped DeSantis's position on Ukraine—specifically, his controversial characterization of the conflict as a "territorial dispute," according to a Reuters report.

Roberts in statements and op-eds has lavished praise on DeSantis, lauding the governor's "courage" and work in "punishing woke companies," "expanding school choice," and "defending religious liberty." Under Roberts's leadership, the Heritage Foundation has twice recognized DeSantis's Florida as the number one state in the nation for "education freedom."

DeSantis has appeared alongside Roberts at Heritage events, delivering a foreign policy speech at the think tank's Washington, D.C., headquarters in October, during which he criticized President Joe Biden for "seeking a blank check" for Ukraine following Russia's invasion.

The Heritage Foundation declined to comment. The Trump and DeSantis campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

Heritage's Project 2025 and its ties to Trump have received media attention in recent weeks. An Axios report on Monday said the project is "undeniably a Trump-driven operation," citing McEntee's role as senior adviser. The Trump campaign in its statement called those reports "purely speculative" and "largely unfounded."

"President Trump and his campaign are singularly focused on beating Joe Biden and achieving victory next November," the statement says.

"While we understand fully the value of planning a transition back to the Oval Office," the statement continues, "these press reports are largely unfounded and an unnecessary distraction from the work we are doing to defeat the most corrupt and incompetent president in what is the most consequential election in the history of our country."