Trump Plans to Expand Presidential Power Over Agencies in 2025

Personal power has always been a driving force for Mr. Trump. He often gestures toward it in a more simplistic manner, such as in 2019, when he declared to a cheering crowd, “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

Mr. Trump made the remark in reference to his claimed ability to directly fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia inquiry, which primed his hostility toward law enforcement and intelligence agencies. He also tried to get a subordinate to have Mr. Mueller ousted, but was defied.

Early in Mr. Trump’s presidency, his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, promised a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” But Mr. Trump installed people in other key roles who ended up telling him that more radical ideas were unworkable or illegal. In the final year of his presidency, he told aides he was fed up with being constrained by subordinates.

Now, Mr. Trump is laying out a far more expansive vision of power in any second term. And, in contrast with his disorganized transition after his surprise 2016 victory, he now benefits from a well-funded policymaking infrastructure, led by former officials who did not break with him after his attempts to overturn the 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

One idea the people around Mr. Trump have developed centers on bringing independent agencies under his thumb.

Congress created these specialized technocratic agencies inside the executive branch and delegated to them some of its power to make rules for society. But it did so on the condition that it was not simply handing off that power to presidents to wield like kings — putting commissioners atop them whom presidents appoint but generally cannot fire before their terms end, while using its control of their budgets to keep them partly accountable to lawmakers as well. (Agency actions are also subject to court review.)

Presidents of both parties have chafed at the agencies’ independence. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal created many of them, endorsed a proposal in 1937 to fold them all into cabinet departments under his control, but Congress did not enact it.


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