Some of Trump’s allies in Congress already support his 2025 ideas on deportations and Jan. 6 pardons

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Donald Trump campaigns on promises of mass deportations and pardons for those convicted in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, his ideas are being met with little pushback and some enthusiasm by a new era of Republicans in Congress.

It’s a shift from the first time around when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee encountered early skepticism and, once in a while, the uproar of condemnation.

Rather than being dismissed as campaign bluster or Trump speaking his mind to rouse his most devoted voters, his words are being adopted as party platforms, potentially able to move quickly from rhetoric to reality with a West Wing in waiting and crucial backing from key corners on Capitol Hill.

“We’re going to have to deport some people,” said Republican Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, one of Trump’s biggest supporters, days after campaigning alongside Trump in his home state.

While Democratic President Joe Biden and his allies are sounding alarms about Trump’s proposed agenda for a second term — and his promise that he would be a “dictator” but only on Day one — the Republican Party in Congress is undergoing a massive political realignment toward Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who clashed with Trump at times particularly over the Capitol riot while also pushing through dozens of his judicial picks, is preparing to step down from his leadership role at the end of the year. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., faces constant threats of his ouster.

Rising in the churn are MAGA-aligned newcomers such as Vance, who wasn’t yet elected during Trump’s presidency, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who was elected as Trump lost to Biden in 2020. Both Vance and Greene are considered potential vice presidential picks by Trump.

Greene, who recently filed a motion to potentially force Johnson from the speakership, said it’s too soon to be discussing a second-term policy agenda or who will fill West Wing positions.

As she campaigns for Trump, she said her priority is just winning the election.

Other Republicans in the House and Senate often simply shrug when asked about Trump’s agenda, pointing to policies they like and others they might support.

Meanwhile, a cast of former Trump White House officials in Washington is pushing out policy papers, drafting executive actions and preparing legislation that would be needed to turn Trump’s ideas into reality. These efforts are separate from Trump’s campaign, whose senior leaders have repeatedly insisted that outside groups do not speak for them, though many group leaders would be in line to serve in a new Trump administration.

If Trump wins, “we are going to have a plan — and the personnel — ready to roll,” said Paul Dans, a former Trump administration official who heads the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, which is collecting thousands of resumes and training staff for a potential second Trump administration.

Trump himself has suggested having a “very tiny little desk” on the Capitol steps so he can sign documents on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2025.

“On Day 1 of President Trump’s new administration, Americans will have a strong leader,” said Karoline Leavitt, the campaign’s national press secretary.

Congress pushed back at times during the first Trump administration, a stable of Republicans joining with Democrats to halt some of his proposals.

Republicans and Democrats resisted a White House effort to commandeer funds for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, leading to the longest government shutdown in history. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who died in 2018, famously gave a thumbs-down to Trump’s effort to repeal the health law known as the Affordable Care Act.

And after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to reverse his 2020 loss to Biden, 10 Republicans in the House voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection and seven Republican senators voted to convict him. Many of those lawmakers have since left Congress. One, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, is retiring at the end of his term. Had the Senate convicted Trump, it could have then moved to bar him from holding federal office again.

As a result, there are fewer lawmakers now in Congress willing or able to stand up to Trump or publicly oppose his agenda as he has effectively commandeered the party apparatus, including the Republican National Committee, as his own.

“Those people are all kind of flushed out,” said Jason Chaffetz, a former GOP representative who is close to Trump allies on and off Capitol Hill.

Trump still falsely argues the 2020 election was stolen and is claiming he should be immune from a four-count federal indictment alleging he defrauded Americans with his effort to overturn the results. He has made Jan. 6 a cornerstone of his 2024 campaign and often refers to those imprisoned for the attack as “hostages.”

GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a leader of the effort to challenge the certification of electors on Jan. 6, said he does not agree with the idea of a “blanket pardon” for those convicted in the riot — some 1,300 people have been charged.

But he said he is closely watching the upcoming Supreme Court case contesting that rioters obstructed an official proceeding, which could call into question hundreds of cases, including some of the charges against Trump.

“My view is, let’s see what the Supreme Court says on that,” Hawley said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, once a staunch Trump critic after their fierce rivalry during the 2016 campaign, said anyone who engaged in violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 should be prosecuted. But Cruz, who also helped challenge the 2020 election that day, was open to pardons for others.

“One of the saddest legacies of the Biden presidency,” he said, was what he called the “weaponization” of the Justice Department to “persecute” thousands of people who engaged in “peaceful protest.”

Perhaps Trump’s most enduring campaign promise in 2024 is his repeated pledge to launch the “largest domestic deportation operation in American history” — reviving the immigration and border security debates that helped define his presidency.

He points to the Eisenhower-era roundup of immigrants as a model, one that goes far behind his 2017 travel ban on migrants from mostly Muslim countries or the family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been a leader on immigration issues, particularly the 2013 bill that provided a 10-year path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. without legal documentation, though it ultimately failed to become law.

But with migrant crossings hitting record highs during Biden’s term, Rubio said, “Whether they’re deported through the hearings that they’re waiting for, they’re deported through some effort to expedite it, something’s going to have to happen.”

“No one’s saying it would be easy, but something’s going to have to happen with all the people that have come here,” he said.

Added Vance: “I think you have to be open to deporting anyone who came to the country illegally.”

Vanessa Cardenas, a former Biden campaign official who now heads the advocacy organization America’s Voice, said she was worried that Trump allies in a second term would “actually know how to work the levers of government.”

“I worry that there’s a little bit of amnesia about how cruel his policies were,” she said, describing the fear in migrant communities. “Our tolerance level for his language and his ideas keeps increasing.”

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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