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Former President Donald Trump will move to reign in the power of unelected federal bureaucrats if elected president in 2024, according to former and current advisers.
Trump, who faced nearly constant opposition from inside the federal government during his time as president, will move to assert executive power over federal agencies if given a second term as president, acting under a legal principle known as the unitary executive theory.
The plans, which were featured in a Tuesday New York Times article, prompted cries of authoritarianism from the Left, but have been praised by conservative policy leaders.
“Our current executive branch,” former Trump aide John McEntee told the Times, “was conceived of by liberals for the purpose of promulgating liberal policies. There is no way to make the existing structure function in a conservative manner. It’s not enough to get the personnel right. What’s necessary is a complete system overhaul.”
Before Trump left office, an executive order was drafted but never issued that would have given him review of regulatory actions by federal agencies. Trump and his allies say that agencies, like the Federal Trade Commission, have acted as a sort of “fourth branch” of government.
Anne Applebaum, a staff writer for The Atlantic, said that the plans would destroy American democracy.
“Imagine wanting to destroy the US, as a democracy and a society, so much that you would scheme to give this kind of power to someone as cruel, vengeful, and mentally limited as Donald Trump,” she wrote on Twitter.
Trump, who leads polling for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has already laid out plans to enact a similar executive order in a policy video from April 2023.
“I will bring the independent regulatory agencies, such as the FCC and the FTC, back under Presidential authority, as the Constitution demands. These agencies do not get to become a fourth branch of government, issuing rules and edicts all by themselves. And that’s what they’ve been doing. We will require that they submit any regulations they are considering for White House review,” he said.
The Times characterized the unitary executive theory as a rejection of traditional American legal principles like the separation of power and checks and balances, a framing disputed by Center for Renewing America President Russ Vought, who told supports the “paradigm-shifting” policies.
“I hesitate to take any issue with the NYT article bc of the sheer enjoyment of the ongoing liberal freakout but this sentence is totally false: ‘The legal theory rejects the idea that the government is composed of three separate branches with overlapping powers to check & balance each other,’” Vought said on Twitter. “No, it rejects the current governing consensus that a fourth branch, never mentioned in the Constitution, can be created out of whole cloth & made immune from the wishes of voters.”
Center for Renewing America Vice President Dan Caldwell agreed, saying that the president had constitutional authority to bring oversight to unelected bureaucrats.
“How is it anti-democratic or authoritarian for the people’s elected officials to use their constitutionally given power and oversight of the government?” Caldwell told The Daily Wire, adding that it was more authoritarian for federal officials, not accountable to the president or Congress, to be making policy decisions.