Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
Your voice in the Aleutians.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What are Trump's policy goals for a second term?


The public's heard a lot about Donald Trump's legal challenges, but what will happen if he survives those and wins the election a year from now? His proposals haven't gotten that much attention. He's sat out the Republican debates. But to his base, he's been busy outlining his goals, and in many cases, he's promising to go further than he did in his first term. Jill Colvin is a national political reporter for the Associated Press. She's been following Trump's 2024 campaign and joins us now. Welcome to the program.

JILL COLVIN: Thanks so much for having me.

RASCOE: Let's start with immigration - what many would consider to be a big weak spot for President Biden. This year alone, the U.S.-Mexico border has received a record number of migrants - 2.4 million - and that's causing problems even in Democratic strongholds like Chicago and New York. So what is Donald Trump saying that he'd do?

COLVIN: You know from covering him that immigration has always been one of the former president's key issues. And what he's proposing for a second term goes far beyond what he tried to accomplish the first - with ideas that are far more extreme. He is proposing what he calls the largest-ever deportation operation in American history. He says that he wants to reimpose that travel ban that targeted Muslim-majority countries. He wants to expand that. He's proposing these ideological tests where he says that anybody coming into the country - they will test to see whether they're communists, whether they are bigots and people who dislike the United States - that he will bar those people as well. And he's also proposed a radical reinterpretation of the 14th Amendment that would bar the constitutional right of birthright citizenship to people who are born in the country.

RASCOE: The economy is another spot where Biden has been seen as weak because of high inflation. What are Trump's priorities here?

COLVIN: Well, Trump, as I'm sure you'll not be surprised to hear, has been quite focused on tariffs. He wants to implement a universal tariff on all imported goods. He's talked about 10% as a potential benchmark. And the way that Trump talks about tariffs - he presents it as though - that it doesn't impact the price that the consumers pay when they're actually purchasing these items, which, of course, is not the way that tariffs work.

RASCOE: And tariffs are an area where a president has a lot of power, right?

COLVIN: Yeah, absolutely, and that's something, you know, that he was very aggressive on in his first term in office. And, you know, he's somebody who has been very skeptical of trade deals - you know, somebody who pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And so it's an area, you know, where he learned during his first term that the president has a lot of, you know, ability to push through things without, you know, needing the help of Congress.

RASCOE: As we mentioned earlier, Trump is caught in a web of criminal indictments and civil suits. It seems like he has a plan for dealing with even that. Here's a clip of what Trump said earlier this month.


DONALD TRUMP: We will start by exposing every last crime committed by crooked Joe Biden because now that he indicted me, we're allowed to look at him. And I will direct a completely overhauled DOJ to investigate every Marxist prosecutor in America.

RASCOE: As president, he could make some of these changes, right?

COLVIN: Absolutely. I mean, this is, I think, the most significant thing that we're going to be talking about today - the proposals that he has put forward replacing, you know, everybody there - his perceived enemies. And he's gone as far as to say that he intends to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Biden, to go after his family. He could even - and he intends, even - to go after potential opponents if somebody is doing well, he says - if somebody is potentially beating him, even though he couldn't run for another term. He wants to go after those people and indict them as well. And so he's really viewing the Justice Department as a tool that he can use to enact retribution and to punish the people that he feels have gone after him unfairly.

RASCOE: Why would there be or why has there been criticism of Trump's proposed approach to the Justice Department?

COLVIN: Well, there's been a long-standing tradition in this country of the Justice Department being thought of as independent from the White House, from the president. You know, it's quite, you know, stunning to hear, you know, a political candidate talking about using that power to target their political enemies. But, you know, we saw during Trump's first term the extent to which he really thought of the federal government as sort of his - he implied that the lawyers who worked in the White House counsel's office and the Justice Department as sort of being his lawyers, and they're to serve him. And so this is really an extension of that kind of thinking.

RASCOE: In addition to all of these, like, legal issues, there are a lot of issues that, you know, you could call culture wars that he has keyed in on a lot, like transgender rights. What has Trump said about these?

COLVIN: You know, it's interesting. At Trump's rallies now, he gets the biggest applause line still when he talks about transgender issues and proposes things like banning men from participating in women's sports, you know? He says that he will push Congress to enact a bill establishing that there are only two genders recognized by the U.S. government. And it's not just transgender issues that he's been talking about. He's also been talking about crime, you know, sending the federal - you know, National Guard into cities like Chicago that he deems out of control, talking about a federal takeover of Washington, D.C., because of crime and because when he drives through, he sees graffiti that he doesn't like. These proposals really, you know, run the gamut and are quite popular with his supporters.

RASCOE: It seems like a lot of supporters of Trump and Trump himself are trying to learn from his term in office before. With that knowledge that they have now, how much more prepared do you think they are?

COLVIN: Trump and his allies are extraordinarily more prepared if he wins a second term in office. You know, when they arrived at the White House in 2017, it was chaos. They knew very little about the levers of federal power. They tried to push through these executive orders that were immediately mired in the courts, had to go through one iteration after the next in order to get these things to stand up legally. And so they are far more prepared not just because they had four years in office to sort of learn, you know, the levers of federal power but because they've had these years since to work on these issues, to lay out plans.

RASCOE: That's Jill Colvin, an Associated Press national political reporter. Thank you so much for joining us.

COLVIN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF BREMER/MCCOY'S "MASSIV") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.