Those Crazy Plans for Trump 2.0? Take Them Seriously.
And literally, too. Mike Davis might be a clown—but he’s the type of clown who would run the next Trump administration.
MASS FIRINGS. INDICTMENTS OF POLITICAL FOES. Deportations of legal residents. More kids in cages. Detaining “a lot of people” in Gitmo and a D.C. gulag. Pardons for insurrectionists.
This is the stated agenda that Mike Davis, a former high-ranking staffer for Chuck Grassley and Neil Gorsuch, recently laid out for the Justice Department in a second Trump term. Davis has become an influential voice in MAGA media and activist circles—understandably so, given his crossover appeal as someone who combines legitimate bona fides as a GOP staffer with the incendiary, burn-it-all-down rhetoric that the MAGA base laps up.
And should, God forbid, Trump win a second term, Davis will be emblematic of the type of person who will staff the government.
So threats from figures like Davis about what that administration would attempt to do to its enemies should be listened to with care.
IN THE FALL OF 2016, I was at a friend’s house for a barbecue that featured many of the GOP’s most prominent Obama-era political strategists. All were horrified by Trump during the primary. None of them had joined—or even considered joining—his campaign staff. But many were now playing supporting roles via super PACs and outside consulting groups to sustain their careers and were slowly coming around to rationalizing their role on the Trump Train.
These were the people whose accommodating Trump bedeviled me enough to inspire an entire project aimed at understanding their motivations. But there was one conversation from that day in 2016 that stuck with me, which I haven’t shared before.
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After I was introduced as a “Never Trumper,” the wife of an establishment super PAC chief made an earnest, impassioned case for why I should come around and support the team. Her argument boiled down to the importance of how the federal government is staffed. While Trump might be noxious, she contended that the thousands of government officials he would appoint—many of whom were in her social circle—would be far superior to the crowd that Hillary Clinton would bring with her. She went on to cite as exhibit A some middle management role that her husband played in the Bush administration that I’ve long since forgotten.
I found this argument to be preposterous and offered the kind of light pushback that is appropriate while standing in someone else’s kitchen holding a paper plate with a cheeseburger on it. The threat of Trump far outweighed the WAR value of the new Republican appointees on the NLRB in my estimation. But she would not be deterred.
Despite my not having been convinced in the context the argument was being made, if we look at her point in a vacuum there is some truth to the personnel-as-policy rationale for supporting a presidential candidate. Consider this counterfactual: Let’s say the presidential race was between two mainstream politicians with no ambition to end American democracy. But the candidate of your preferred party had some minor personal peccadillos. In that case it might be understandable to overlook the character question, valuing instead the like-minded individuals running the federal bureaucracy.
This was not the situation in 2016.
But for those small-government Republicans who thought it was and who made the bureaucracy-over-character bet eight years ago, the reverse case might be operative this time around. If they understood just how radical and illiberal these bureaucrats would be, this might be the type of thing to give a Wall Street Journal-reading super PAC spouse pause.
Exhibit A: Mike Davis.
MIKE DAVIS IS NOT SOME RANDOM CADDIE whom Donald Trump drummed up at Bedminster to issue foreign policy decrees via tweet. He’s a guy who has had serious jobs for the Bush DOJ, Newt Gingrich, and Judge Gorsuch. He was chief counsel for Grassley when he was Senate Judiciary chairman, where Davis says he “oversaw the floor votes for 278 nominees, including the confirmations of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”
Davis’s current gig is spearheading activist groups that fight for right-wing judicial appointments and oppose “Big Tech.” In this role he makes frequent appearances on right-wing media outlets, including primetime Fox and its MAGA competitors (think Real America’s Voice, Newsmax, Bannon’s War Room), where he preaches the Gospel of Trump on issues ranging from the former president’s many indictments to the Biden impeachment.
Davis looks the part of a serious political appointee. Loyal, radical, and TV-ready—he is exactly the type of staffer Trump has demonstrated he will turn to.
And the plans he has been airing should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Here’s how, in an interview with Benny Johnson, Davis discussed what he would do if he were “acting attorney general” for a few weeks in a new Trump term:
But during my three week reign of terror as Trump acting attorney general, before I get chased out of town with my Trump pardon, I will rain hell on Washington, D.C. We’ve talked about this, Ben. I have five lists, ready to go and they’re growing.
List number one, we’re gonna fire. We’re gonna fire a lot of people in the executive branch, in the deep state.
Number two, we’re gonna indict. We’re gonna indict Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and James Biden and every other scumball, sleazeball, Biden, except for the five year old granddaughter who they refused to acknowledge for five years until the political pressure got to Joe Biden.
Number three, we’re gonna deport. We’re gonna deport a lot of people, 10 million people and growing—anchor babies, their parents, their grandparents. We’re gonna put kids in cages. It’s gonna be glorious. We’re gonna detain a lot of people in the D.C. gulag and Gitmo.
And list number five, I’m gonna recommend a lot of pardons. Every January 6th defendant is gonna get a pardon, especially my hero horn man. He is definitely at the top of the pardon list.
It’s hard to know where to begin objecting to this list, which seems to be missing its fourth element (I take it the overlooked item is the nondescript “gulag”—the details of which Davis forgot to mention amid all the bloodlust).
Obviously any agenda that includes the word “gulag” and deportations of legal U.S. citizens (which “anchor babies” are) is far beyond the bounds of constitutional governance. So should we take these remarks seriously? Should we take them literally?
At first, enjoying the outcry, Davis quoted a summary of his Trump DOJ agenda adding “Fact Check: True”:
But later, after it got a little hot in the kitchen, Davis dialed things down, xeeting that he was being “intentionally inflammatory.”
Here’s the problem with the inflammation “defense”: Trump has a track record of trying to implement intentionally inflammatory campaign proposals.
Recall that the “Muslim ban” was at first a campaign device not to be taken literally. The “serious” Republicans in 2016 dismissed it as “offensive” and “unconstitutional” but stuck with their man anyway. When Trump won and attempted to do exactly as he promised, the very same people who criticized the ban were sitting on the right hand of the father. This unconstitutional proposal was then implemented by the “serious,” “grown-up” bureaucrats who were supposed to stop Trump’s most dangerous policy ideas, like Homeland Security Secretary (and later chief of staff) John Kelly.
So, no, I’m not exactly mollified by the idea that Davis is just trolling the libs when trolling the libs seems likely to be the top policy motivation of the man he wants to put in the White House.
It’s also disquieting when you consider that Davis’s DOJ “reign of terror” is not some goofy one-off. It’s in line with everything else he puts out. In some other recent lowlights, he:
Promised to indict Jamal Bowman over the fire alarm pull on the first day of the second Trump term. (N.B.: This is not how indictments work.)
Identified specific journalists that he wanted to indict, deport, or detain at GITMO.
Went on a rant about the “violent black underclass” who are “monsters” and the scourge of “ghetto culture.” His solution to this problem is “mass incarceration of these thugs” and for the rest of America to “arm up.”
Declared that “Obama is running the show” as demonstrated by his house in Washington D.C. (big if true).
Racist demagoguery. Conspiratorial thinking. Promises for retribution against enemies. This is Trump’s stated agenda for 2024. And people like Mike Davis stand ready and willing to execute it.
So in 2024, small-government conservatives voting on the bureaucrats-not-the-president line should listen carefully. Because the Trump bureaucracy won’t just come for the media and the left.
“My 5 lists also include Republicans,” Davis wrote. “We’re going donkey and RINO hunting after November 5, 2024.”
Whether it will be Mike Davis himself, or someone less liable to blow themselves up on Xitter, It will be the Mike Davises of the world who staff the next Trump administration. Anyone who dismisses their plans as nothing more than unserious internet bluster are making a grave mistake.