With the flick of pen, a new president can undo years of work by a previous administration through his constitutional “executive powers.”
Since relocating to the White House, President Donald Trump has signed a number of executive actions, including executive orders and presidential memoranda, aimed both at fulfilling his campaign promises and at rolling back the policies of former President Barack Obama.
“We do not need new laws,” Trump said soon after signing the two executive orders related to immigration on Wednesday, indicating he’ll test the existing framework.
Here’s a look at both the orders and memoranda he has signed so far.
Trump’s first week of executive orders
An executive order is a legally binding document that declares government policy. Unable to reverse a law passed by Congress, it is more often used to delegate and direct government agencies and departments.
Since taking the inaugural oath, Trump has, so far, signed four executive orders.
Day 1: Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal
Hours after taking the oath of office, Trump issued an executive order aimed at rolling back Obamacare. The directive called on the secretary of health and human services, in addition to other agencies, to interpret regulations as loosely as possible to minimize the financial burden on individuals, insurers, health care providers and others.
Who will it affect? The order’s language is somewhat vague and considering that Obamacare was passed through Congress, this presidential action can’t change the law. The process of changing the law is underway, however. The House of Representatives recently approved a budget that would allow Congress to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and congressional Republicans and the White House are scrambling to develop a replacement. President Trump hopes to replace it with his own administration’s health care law. All of that means this executive order’s implications are unknown.
Day 4: Expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high profile infrastructure projects
Trump directed those in charge of evaluating the environmental impact of infrastructure projects to return their assessments in a more timelier manner.
Who will it affect? Trump promised to make new spending on US infrastructure projects a priority of his administration. He needs Congress to approve any new spending bill, but this order could help expedite certain projects.
Day 6: Border security and immigration enforcement improvements
Fulfilling another of his campaign promises, President Trump instructed the Department of Homeland Security to commence immediate construction of a 1,900-mile long wall along the southern border with Mexico using existing federal funds to get it started. The directive also signaled beefing up the border with and additional 5,000 border protection officers.
Who will it affect? It’s unclear where the funds for building the wall will come from. Congress would need to approve any new funding for both the wall. Some of the land is privately owned, which could prove another hurdle. But it could potentially bring more jobs and a financial injection to the economy of the border regions once construction begins and with the introduction of more border agents. More officers would also probably mean more deportations of undocumented immigrants.
Day 6: Enhancing public safety in the Interior of the United States
This executive order aims to tackle the issue of undocumented immigrants through deportation and tripling resources for enforcement with 10,000 additional immigration officers. It also targets so-called “sanctuary cities” — cities, states and other entities which can refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities through a variety of shielding policies — by withholding funding.
Who will it affect? Again, this order would likely see an increase in the number of undocumented immigrants being deported. And while the administration can’t cut off all federal funding, as Congress pays out much of it, the President could put pressure on cities to comply.
Day 9: Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees
Designed to give teeth to Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, the order imposes a lifetime ban on administration officials lobbying for foreign governments, and a five-year ban for other lobbying. Officials also have to pledge they “will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.”
Who will it affect? Some cabinet picks will likely have to submit new ethics agreements if they have financial ties with companies affected by the actions of their departments. They will now have to agree to a two-year moratorium, instead of the original one year.
Trump’s first nine days of presidential memoranda
In addition to the executive orders, Trump signed eight presidential memoranda, which have less legal weight than an executive order and are more important as documents laying out the priorities of his administration. They can have real consequences, however.
1. Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies — An order to halt any new federal regulations until they can be reviewed by the new administration. Actually rolling back regulations the Obama administration put in place will take time and a bureaucratic process. This was a near exact replica of executive orders that the past two presidents have had their chiefs of staff issue at the beginning of their administrations.
2. Regarding the Mexico City Policy — Reinstates a policy that, among other things, restricts US funding to NGOs that provide abortions.
3. Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement — Withdraws the US from a massive trade deal that was negotiated by the Obama administration, but not yet ratified by Congress. It was largely a symbolic move since the TPP was never officially enacted.
4. Regarding the Hiring Freeze — Institutes a freeze on the hiring of new federal workers, except for the military. It contains wide exemptions for jobs “necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” which is a broad definition. It also exempts military hiring, which accounts for a third of federal jobs.
5. Construction of American Pipelines – Says new pipelines should be made using US-produced materials.
6. Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline — Kick starts a pipeline the Obama administration had quashed. Trump’s order allows the pipelines to proceed but the projects are still a long way from getting underway. Trump himself said the US would renegotiate the terms of the pipelines, which implies a lengthy process with several competing interests.
7. Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline — Prioritizes a controversial pipeline that was the subject of protests in North Dakota
8. Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing — Requests a plan to make the permitting process easier for US manufacturers.
9: Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council
Elevates the President’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, to full membership of the NSC and downgrades the roles of Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who “shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”
10: Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
President Trump orders a new plan to defeat ISIS to be drawn up within 30 days. It will include mechanisms to cut off all of the terror group’s funding, including sale of oil and historical artifacts.
One week in: Who signed more — Trump or Obama?
Trump is the latest in a long line of incoming commanders-in-chief flexing their executive muscles the first week on the job. Presidents, going all the way back to George Washington, have often taken unilateral steps to skirt past adverse lawmakers and bypass Congress — some more than others.
Getting straight to business on Inauguration Day, Trump immediately signed an order instructing federal agencies to weaken Obamacare. Not since Bill Clinton in 1993 had an incoming president signed an executive order on his first day in office.
President Trump can reverse any of his predecessor’s executive orders, just as Trump’s successor can overturn anything he signs while in office.
Shortly after stepping into the White House, Obama signed executive actions aimed at closing Guantanamo Bay and shuttering secret detention facilities — promises he had assured voters of while on the campaign trail.
In fact, the then-president signed six executive orders in the first 30 days of his first term that reversed eight orders from George W. Bush.
Unlike executive orders, presidential memos do not have to be released publicly so it is hard to document the exact number issued during a president’s term.
Obama was known for utilizing alternative presidential actions more often than executive orders.
With several more expected executive orders on trade and immigration, and Trump also eying up another on voter fraud, one thing is clear: like many of his predecessors, the President is using his new executive powers to make his campaign promises a reality.
**This is a rolling list of executive actions undertaken by President Trump since taking office, as of January 30, 10:00 ET. This piece will be updated to reflect any new orders signed**