Trump Allies Work to Craft a Platform Going Beyond Fealty to Him

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(Bloomberg) — Former cabinet members and top officials in Donald Trump’s administration, including economic adviser Larry Kudlow, have launched a new think tank in an effort to create a policy platform out of the former president’s chaotic approach to governing.

© Bloomberg U.S. President Donald Trump departs the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Trump plans to tout completed sections of his border wall in Texas on Tuesday, his first public event since encouraging supporters who went on to attack the U.S. Capitol last week.

The 40-person America First Policy Institute, a non-profit with a $20 million budget to start, will release research papers, hold events, write opinion pieces and make appearances at the state and federal levels, said Brooke Rollins, the former White House director of the Domestic Policy Council and the new institute’s president and chief executive.

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The institute has 20 “policy centers” focused on specific issues led by notable Trump administration officials. Kudlow will oversee the center for American prosperity; former Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry will run the center for energy independence; and the American security center will be led by former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and retired General Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence.

Other notable administration officials who have joined the institute include Linda McMahon, the former head of the Small Business Administration and former professional wrestling executive, said Rollins, who led the Texas Public Policy Foundation before joining the White House. Axios first reported the details of the launch.

Trump was known for governing by Twitter posts and for not following established GOP dogma, such as his opposition to free trade, a long-held Republican philosophy.

Unlike former presidents such as Ronald Reagan who came into office and governed by an established set of policies and world view, Trump didn’t have a coherent political philosophy and platform that the groups are now trying to create, said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Trump critic who served in three prior Republican administrations.

“They’re trying to construct a policy world after he’s left office to try and explain after the fact what he stood for on policy,” Wehner said.The institute joins other organizations being formed by former Trump administration officials since the president left office on Jan. 20, including Advancing American Freedom launched last week by former Vice President Mike Pence, a potential 2024 presidential candidate. Its advisory board features many former Trump advisers including Kudlow and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.

Wehner said he sees the group and others like it as part of the broader fight over the direction of the Republican Party, whether it continues to reflect Trump’s ideas or follow traditional conservative principles. He also said an institute could help rehabilitate Trump’s reputation after the Jan. 6 insurrection, his two impeachments and other controversies during his term.

Rollins said rehabilitation is not an aim of the institute, which she said is nonpartisan. She also said the purpose is to advance policies that work and are right for the country for decades to come.

“Those on the other side of other aisle, those that are progressive, sort of radical, remake America, have out-gunned us on this field for years, if not decades,” Rollins said.

Rollins said she, Kudlow and McMahon discussed the institute last week with Trump in person and that the former president will be involved in some capacity still to be determined.

Trump said in a statement issued through his political action committee that the institute has his full support.

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