Close allies of Donald J. Trump are preparing to populate a new administration with a more aggressive breed of right-wing lawyer, dispensing with traditional conservatives who they believe stymied his agenda in his first term.
The allies have been drawing up lists of lawyers they view as ideologically and temperamentally suited to serve in a second Trump administration. Their aim is to reduce the chances that politically appointed lawyers would frustrate a more radical White House agenda — as they sometimes did when Mr. Trump was in office, by raising objections to his desires for certain harsher immigration policies or for greater personal control over the Justice Department, among others.
Now, as Trump allies grow more confident in an election victory next fall, several outside groups, staffed by former Trump officials who are expected to serve in senior roles if he wins, have begun parallel personnel efforts. At the start of Mr. Trump’s term, his administration relied on the influential Federalist Society, the conservative legal network whose members filled key executive branch legal roles and whose leader helped select his judicial nominations. But in a striking shift, Trump allies are building new recruiting pipelines separate from the Federalist Society.
These back-room discussions were described by seven people with knowledge of the planning, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. In addition, The New York Times interviewed former senior lawyers in the Trump administration and other allies who have remained close to the former president and are likely to serve in a second term.
The interviews reveal a significant break within the conservative movement. Top Trump allies have come to view their party’s legal elites — even leaders with seemingly impeccable conservative credentials — as out of step with their movement.
“The Federalist Society doesn’t know what time it is,” said Russell T. Vought, a former senior Trump administration official who runs a think tank with close ties to the former president. He argued that many elite conservative lawyers had proved to be too timid when, in his view, the survival of the nation is at stake.
Such comments may surprise those who view the Federalist Society as hard-line conservatives. But the move away from the group reflects the continuing evolution of the Republican Party in the Trump era and an effort among those now in his inner circle to prepare to take control of the government in a way unseen in modern presidential history.
Two of the allies leading the push are Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s former senior adviser, and John McEntee, another trusted aide whom the then-president had empowered in 2020 to rid his administration of political appointees perceived as disloyal or obstructive. [Continue reading…]