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What Trump is promising supporters he’d do in a second term

Deploying the military domestically to fight crime, a big tax on foreign imports and “record-setting” deportations are among Trump’s main 2024 pledges.
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At a Donald Trump rally, it is often an off-the-cuff one-liner that ends up driving headlines.

In between, in speech after speech, the former president is laying out an aggressive and ambitious policy agenda for a second term — one that makes elements of his first term in the White House look mild in comparison.

Most of the agenda items aren’t brand new — on immigration and other issues, Trump is making a lot of the same promises he did during his 2016 campaign that never came to fruition due to a lack of congressional support or limitations on his executive authority. But there are some unique areas Trump is focused on now that telegraph a more hard-line approach if he returns to office.

Trump makes many consequential pronouncements suddenly, like his recent statement about letting Russia attack a NATO ally that wasn’t paying enough for defense. But here are some of the campaign promises Trump is repeating most often from the campaign trail.

‘Record-setting’ deportations

Immigration was perhaps the biggest driving force, policywise, behind Trump’s 2016 campaign. Now, he has unofficially deemed it the top priority of his 2024 White House bid, speaking in depth about it during every campaign speech he has given.

“On my first day back in the White House, I will terminate every open borders policy of the Biden administration, stop the invasion on our southern border and begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” Trump said at an Iowa campaign event in December.

Trump made similar promises back in 2016 that he wasn’t able to keep, deporting fewer people than President Barack Obama did in each of his two terms, according to federal government data. If anything, Republican voters might be more animated by border and immigration policy now, and NBC News’ latest poll showed Trump’s biggest policy advantage over President Joe Biden was on the subject of securing the border.

Trump has also promised not only to reinstate his travel ban targeting certain Muslim-majority countries but to expand the ban to include Gazan refugees and institute certain “ideological screenings” for all immigrants.

“I banned refugees from Syria, I banned refugees from Somalia — very dangerous places — and from all of the most dangerous places all over the world, I banned them,” Trump said at an Iowa rally in October. “In my second term, we’re going to expand each and every one of those bans,” he added.

In 2016, Trump repeatedly promised to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall that was 1,000 miles long. What ended up coming together was 453 miles of border wall, the vast majority of which was reinforcement of existing walls. Trump also vowed that Mexico would cover the cost, which it did not. This time around, in a similarly ambitious fashion, Trump promises to finish what he started.

A hard-line approach on global affairs — including a big import tax

The former president has projected a my-way-or-the-highway approach to international dealings, floating the idea of a universal 10% tax on all goods coming from countries outside the U.S., in an attempt to prioritize domestic production.

On the campaign trail, Trump often generalizes his economic approach as “America first,” threatening big tariffs on goods from companies that choose to outsource labor and production from the U.S.

Economists on both sides of the aisle have cautioned against Trump’s universal proposal. A center-right think tank, American Action Forum, said Trump’s proposed policy would “distort global trade, discourage economic activity, and have general negative consequences on the American economy.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, meanwhile, said the plan would “raise the cost of a wide variety of goods that American businesses and consumers rely on.”

Trump’s recent comments about Russia and NATO also drew a rebuke from the head of NATO, who said it could put at risk the lives of American and European soldiers.

A military crackdown on crime

Trump has suggested using the National Guard to address crime, which he argues is worse than it’s ever been.

The former president often alludes to expanding the military domestically to address crime in cities. Referring to Washington, D.C., and Chicago as “crime dens,” Trump has vowed to intervene with military force without gaining the necessary permission from local leaders.

“One of the things I’ll do — you’re supposed to not be involved in that, you just have to be asked by the governor or the mayor to come in — the next time, I’m not waiting,” Trump said.

There has traditionally been a bright dividing line between the military and domestic law enforcement. But figures on the right have argued for a more aggressive use of the Insurrection Act by Trump to deploy the military domestically during a second term.

Trump has also upped his harsh rhetoric on crime: For certain low-level crimes, Trump has suggested the punishment of death.

“Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store, shot,” Trump said to a rowdy California GOP convention crowd in September.

Trump also routinely insists that the death penalty should be instituted for drug dealers, depending on the severity of their offenses.

Eliminating the Department of Education — and using federal dollars to fight local mandates

Trump intends to slash the federal department entirely, a 4,400-person operation with a $68 billion budget. Trump claims this would give full educational authority back to the states, even though an elimination of the department wouldn’t directly transfer over any new state power.

While Trump talks about returning power to states and localities, another promise met with roaring applause at each rally is to cut the funding of any public school system that has a mask mandate for child safety, an increasingly rare authorization.

The former president floated eliminating the Department of Education when running in 2016. While in office, he attempted an unsuccessful merger of the Education and Labor departments into one entity. Trump also attempted to cut billions from the department’s budget that would have ended subsidized student loans and the public service loan forgiveness program.

Political retaliation against Biden

One of Trump’s most consistent talking points on the trail centers on his intention to prosecute Biden if he regains executive power.

“I will appoint a real special prosecutor to go after the most corrupt president in the history of America, Joe Biden, and go after the Biden crime family,” Trump said in June at his Bedminster, New Jersey, residence, just hours after being arraigned at a federal courthouse in Miami on charges alleging willful retention of classified documents.

Trump often points to the 91 felony counts he is facing as evidence of a “two-tiered” system of “weaponized” justice that he says has opened “Pandora’s box.”

During a South Carolina rally last week, Trump seemed to sardonically shift that messaging around, saying he no longer wanted to seek revenge on Biden because he was too incompetent. When Trump asked the crowd in a tongue-in-cheek manner if they agreed with not taking revenge on Biden, shouts of no and ardent boos filled the arena.