The podcast hosted by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is the media home of a sprawling right-wing effort, known as Project 2025, that’s designed to prepare policy papers and staffing assignments should a Republican win the presidency in next year’s election.
Bannon’s show, War Room, is a hub of election denialism, anti-immigrant bigotry, and promises to carry out retribution against insufficiently loyal Republicans — all hallmarks of former President Donald Trump’s first term in office and his campaign to retake the White House. Although Bannon has at times found himself isolated from Trump, he is once again “one of Trump’s most important advisers,” according to ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.
As a leading advocate for the MAGA wing of the conservative movement, Bannon has been a champion of Project 2025, organized by the increasingly far-right think tank The Heritage Foundation. The initiative has brought together more than 80 groups to provide hard-right personnel and white paper proposals for Trump — or another Republican administration — should he win next November.
According to The Washington Post, Trump and his allies at Project 2025 “have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.”
From his perch at War Room, Bannon has sought to normalize all of those ideas: deploying the military against protesters, weaponizing the Department of Justice against critics, and replacing the federal civil service with loyalist reactionaries.
Jeffrey Clark, who Trump attempted to install as acting attorney general in January 2021, has been on War Room several times this year and is also reportedly “leading the work on the Insurrection Act under Project 2025,” according to the Post. A Heritage spokesperson told the Post that “there are no plans within Project 2025 related to the Insurrection Act or targeting political enemies.”
Heritage’s denial notwithstanding, Clark — who is widely believed to be an unindicted co-conspirator in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment against Trump for attempting to overturn the 2020 election — has a record of supporting the use of the military to quash dissent. In July, Clark appeared on War Room to explain how he had advocated for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act in response to the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020.
“I was actually summoned up to a meeting, you know, to discuss how to proceed in terms of that — what I would call an insurrection, because it was happening night after night,” Clark recalled to Bannon.
“Remember that [former Attorney General William] Barr is the one who had participated, when he was attorney general, in using the Insurrection Act against the L.A. riots, after the Rodney King case,” Clark said. “Why wasn’t that same aggressiveness used against the riots that were all across the country in the summer of 2020?”
Referring to a memo he’d written to Barr that included “some very creative ideas about how to enforce the law against those rioters,” Clark added, “If you want to see the legal advice I gave, it’s all blacked out,” strongly suggesting he’d supported deploying the military against civilian protesters.
The next month, Smith indicted Trump for his actions to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Clark was reportedly referred to in the indictment as “unindicted co-conspirator 4,” and is alleged to have suggested Trump use the military against civilians. On January 3, 2021, White House Council Patrick Philbin told Clark — who had just accepted the job of acting attorney general — that if the Trump-Clark coup plans went forward, “there would be riots in every major city in the United States."
“Well … that’s why there’s an Insurrection Act,” Clark responded.
In the Bannon interview from July, Clark also rejected the conventional wisdom that the Department of Justice is — or should be — independent from political pressure from the White House. In Clark’s telling, the DOJ shouldn’t be walled off, as it has been by most presidents following Richard Nixon’s targeting of his enemies during the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s.
Past administrations put in “post-Watergate ‘norms’ that say the president actually can’t make decisions about law enforcement,” Clark said. “It’s ridiculous, it’s unconstitutional, and the reason why they’re having a meltdown, Steve, is that the queen position in the administrative state is the Justice Department.”
“To say that the Justice Department is not independent is sort of the ultimate heresy,” Clark added. “This is all just post-Watergate ‘norms.’ Who cares about post-Watergate norms?”
Clark is a fellow at the Center for Renewing America, a MAGA-aligned think tank run by Christian nationalist Russ Vought — another major player in Project 2025 and frequent War Room guest. Vought wrote the second chapter of Project 2025’s “Mandate for Leadership,” a combination manifesto and outline detailing how the coalition would approach the next Republican administration. In his chapter, Vought levies a broad critique of career staffers at executive branch departments and agencies, writing that “many agencies are not only too big and powerful, but also increasingly weaponized against the public and a President who is elected by the people and empowered by the Constitution to govern.”
Vought’s argument flows directly from Bannon’s long-running goal of a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” In an interview on War Room, Vought advocated for a change to budgeting rules that would allow Congress to target individual government workers, potentially canceling their funding, slashing their salary, or even firing them. He’s also a proponent of using so-called “Schedule F” to reclassify federal employees as at-will workers, an open attack on public unions and career staffers.”
Vought is especially interested in remaking the DOJ into a more explicitly reactionary institution, and his think tank has been clear that its goal is to unleash the FBI against its political enemies. As he told the Post: “You need an attorney general and a White House Counsel’s Office that don’t view themselves as trying to protect the department from the president.”
On November 6, Bannon floated a name for attorney general who would fit the bill: “Jeff Clark, you're on the short list of being attorney general for Trump, and I mean the very short list.” Bannon pitched Clark for the role at least once earlier this year and has suggested disgraced former national security advisor and QAnon adherent Michael Flynn serve as secretary of defense.
Bannon isn’t just engaging in a fantasy football-style draft though — he has interviewed Paul Dans, the director of Project 2025, several times this year. Although that’s a long way from installing Flynn as secretary of defense, it’s a sign that Bannon’s personnel preferences shouldn’t be dismissed simply as the rantings of a crank.
“Let me just say to the [War Room] posse: The posse has landed at Heritage, and, you know, I really respect what your program does,” Dans gushed during an appearance in June. “I’ve been a devotee since 2020.”
Dans added, with a hat tip to Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts: “He brought me in in April. I started playing the War Room in May. We learned the word ‘based,’ and it's been spreading around the building. But we’re really taking over and infusing America First throughout the whole movement.”
Dans was back on the show in September with a promise to decimate the federal civil service by firing thousands of workers. “With 2025, we’re going to flood the zone,” Dans said, “It’s going to be more than 3,000 people.”
“Schedule F is one of our tools, but really the proposition of Schedule F is just saying: Look, when you come into the office, federal worker, each morning, and you’re in charge of policy, you’re not guaranteed your job when you walk out that afternoon,” Dans continued, “You have to perform. You’re going to become an at-will employee like the rest of us in real life, you know? Let’s make it look a lot more like America."
“Amen,” Bannon repeated as Dans spoke.
According to the Post, one of the top goals of another Trump administration and Project 2025 is investigating “onetime officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office, including his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and former Attorney General William P. Barr.” War Room frequently indulges in these impulses.
On June 12, Bannon baselessly argued that FBI director Christopher Wray and former Attorney General Bill Barr had suppressed evidence that proved Joe Biden and his family had committed financial crimes, thereby installing him in the presidency as the result of an illegitimate election.
“You are freaking guilty of treason,” Bannon said, addressing an imaginary Barr.
Back in January, former Trump advisor and right-wing pundit Sebastian Gorka went after Kelly on War Room. “You are an insult to Quantico,” Gorka said, referring to the Marine base. “You were never a Marine.”
“Go to hell, John Kelly,” he concluded.
“Wow,” Bannon responded.