WASHINGTON — Scores of former Trump political appointees gathered at a GOP social club Wednesday night to hear Steve Bannon detail how they could help the next Republican president reconfigure government.
"If you’re going to take over the administrative state and deconstruct it, then you have to have shock troops prepared to take it over immediately," Bannon said in a telephone interview with NBC News. "I gave 'em fire and brimstone."
Bannon, who ran former President Donald Trump's first campaign and later worked as a top adviser in the White House, said that Trump's agenda was delayed by the challenges of quickly filling roughly 4,000 slots for presidential appointees at federal agencies and the steep learning curve for political officials who were new to Washington.
He is not alone in that view. His appearance at the Capitol Hill Club came at the invitation of a new organization called the Association of Republican Presidential Appointees, which was formed to create a resource for future GOP officials tapped to fill federal jobs.
"There are so many statutes and regulations as well as agency and departmental policies, it can be very overwhelming when you first come in," said Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a former Broadcasting Board of Governors official who is one of the organizers of the group. "This is an organization that has a very narrow, clear and much-needed purpose, and, once it is operational, I think it could do a lot of good not just for the Republican Party but for the country."
Trump often railed publicly about career civil servants and Obama administration political appointee holdovers whom he saw as obstacles to his agenda, referring to them collectively as the "deep state."
Bannon said he wants to see pre-trained teams ready to jump into federal agencies when the next Republican president takes office. For the most part, that means the tiers of presidential appointees whose postings don't require Senate confirmation.
"We’re going to have a sweeping victory in 2022, and that’s just the preamble to a sweeping victory in 2024, and this time we’re going to be ready — and have a MAGA perspective, MAGA policies, not the standard Republican policies," he said, referring to Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan and describing a 2024 electoral victory as a "second term."
The launch party Wednesday drew a crowd of roughly 200 former officials from multiple Republican administrations — though mostly Trump appointees — according to a person who attended and is not one of the organizers of the group.
Shapiro said organizers are still trying to determine who will lead the association, but he said the need for institutional memory is apparent.
"What we’re hoping to do is build a base of people that can be available as a support system for political appointees who are coming in for the first time," he said. "It’s easy, if you know the rules, to accomplish your objective."