President Donald Trump’s first week in office was filled with a flurry of action, and he’s just getting started.
The 45th president has signed 27 executive actions so far, with far-reaching effects on Americans’ lives.
While many of them have been billed as executive orders in the popular vernacular, most of them were technically presidential memoranda or proclamations.
The three types of executive actions have different authority and effects, with executive orders holding the most prestige:
- Executive orders are assigned numbers and published in the federal register, similar to laws passed by Congress, and typically direct members of the executive branch to follow a new policy or directive.
- Presidential memoranda do not have to be published or numbered (though they can be), and usually delegate tasks that Congress has already assigned the president to members of the executive branch.
- Finally, while some proclamations — like President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation — have carried enormous weight, most are ceremonial observances of federal holidays or awareness months.
Scholars have typically used the number of executive orders per term to measure how much presidents have exercised their power. George Washington only signed eight his entire time in office, according to the American Presidency Project, while FDR penned over 3,700.
In his two terms, President Barack Obama issued 277 executive orders, a total number on par with his modern predecessors, but the lowest per year average in 120 years.
Here’s a quick guide to the executive actions Trump has made so far, what they do, and how the world has reacted to them:
Trump's second go at his controversial travel order bans people from Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Libya from entering the US for 90 days, and bars all refugees from coming into the country for 120 days, starting March 16.
Existing visa holders will not be subjected to the ban, and religious minorities will no longer get preferential treatment -- two details critics took particular issue with in the first ban. The new order removed Iraq from the list of countries, and changed excluding just Syrian refugees to preventing all refugees from entering the US.
Democrats denounced the new order, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying the 'watered-down ban is still a ban,' and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez saying 'Trump's obsession with religious discrimination is disgusting, un-American, and outright dangerous.'
This memo instructs the State Department, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security how to implement Trump's new travel ban.
It directs the three department heads to enhance the vetting of visa applicants and other immigrants trying to enter the US as they see fit, to release how many visa applicants there were by country, and to submit a report in 180 days detailing the long-term costs of the United States Refugee Admissions Program.
3 Presidential proclamations, March 1: National months for women, the American Red Cross, and Irish-Americans
The president proclaimed March 2017 Women's History Month, American Red Cross Month, and Irish-American Heritage Month.
This order established the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which will aim to increase private funding of these schools, encourage more students to attend them, and identify ways the executive branch can help these institutions succeed.
Students at some HBCU protested the meeting their leaders attended to witness Trump signing the order, expressing their disapproval of the president in general, and questioning whether the action was 'truly a seat at the table' or merely 'a photo op.'
The order directed federal agencies to revise the Clean Water Rule, a major regulation Obama issued in 2015 to clarify what areas are federally protected under the Clean Water Act.
Trump's EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt called the rule 'the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen,' in 2015, and led a multi-state lawsuit against it while he was Oklahoma's attorney general.
David J. Cooper, an ecologist at Colorado State University, cautioned that repealing the rule wouldn't settle the confusion about what the federal government can protect under the Clean Water Act, or where.
This order creates Regulator Reform Officers within each federal agency who will comb through existing regulations and recommend which ones the administration should repeal. It directs the officers to focus on eliminating regulations that prevent job creation, are outdated, unnecessary, or cost too much.
The act doubles down on Trump's plan to cut government regulations he says are hampering businesses, but opponents insist are necessary to protect people and the environment. Leaders of 137 nonprofit groups sent a letter to the White House on February 28 telling the president that 'Americans did not vote to be exposed to more health, safety, environmental and financial dangers.'
This order enacted a line of succession to lead the US Department of Justice if the attorney general, deputy attorney general, or associate attorney general die, resign, or are otherwise unable to carry on their duties. In order, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and then the US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri will be next in line.
The action reverses an order Obama signed days before leaving office. After Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce his first travel ban, he appointed Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general in her place. This order elevates his position in the order of succession.
The order is intended to 'thwart' criminal organizations, including 'criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities.'
The action directs law enforcement to apprehend and prosecute citizens, and deport non-citizens involved in criminal activities including 'the illegal smuggling and trafficking of humans, drugs or other substances, wildlife, and weapons,' 'corruption, cybercrime, fraud, financial crimes, and intellectual-property theft,' and money laundering
The Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence will co-chair a Threat Mitigation Working Group that will identify ways that local, state, federal, and international law enforcement can work together in order to eradicate organized crime.
It also instructs the co-chairs to present the president with a report within 120 days outlining the penetration of criminal organizations into the United States, and recommendations for how to eradicate them.
Following up on his promise to restore 'law and order' in America, Trump signed an executive order intended to reduce violent crime in the US, and 'comprehensively address illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime.'
The action directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to assemble a task force in order to identify new strategies and laws to reduce crime, and to evaluate how well crime data is being collected and leveraged across the country.
Trump has come under fire recently for claiming the national murder rate was at an all-time high, when it has in fact dropped to one of the lowest rates ever, with 2015 merely experiencing a slight uptick from the previous year.
The order seeks to create new laws that will protect law enforcement, and increase the penalties for crimes committed against them.
It also directs the attorney general to review existing federal grant funding programs to law enforcement agencies, and recommend changes to the programs if they don't adequately protect law enforcement.
The action is likely in response to multiple high-profile police killings over the past year, including a sniper attack that killed five Dallas police officers in July.
The order states that for every one regulation the executive branch proposes, two must be identified to repeal. It also caps the spending on new regulations for 2017 at $0.
Some environmental groups expressed concern that the order could undo regulations put in place to protect natural resources.
The order requires appointees to every executive agency to sign an ethics pledge saying they will never lobby a foreign government and that they won't do any other lobbying for five years after they leave government.
But it also loosened some ethics restrictions that Obama put in place, decreasing the number of years executive branch employees had to wait since they had last been lobbyists from two years to one.
Trump removed the nation's top military and intelligence advisers as regular attendees of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, the interagency forum that deals with policy issues affecting national security.
The executive measure established Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as a regular attendee, and disinvited the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence to attend only when necessary.
Top Republican lawmakers and national security experts roundly criticized the move, expressing their skepticism that Bannon should be present and alarm that the Joint Chiefs of Staff sometimes wouldn't be.
Making a point to use the phrase 'radical Islamic terrorism' (something Trump criticized Obama for on the campaign trail), Trump directed his administration 'to develop a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS,' drafted within 30 days.
In Trump's most controversial executive action yet, he temporarily barred people from majority-Muslim Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days, and Syrians from entering until he decides otherwise.
Federal judges in several states declared the order unconstitutional, releasing hundreds of people who were stuck at US airports in limbo. The White House continues to defend the action, insisting it was 'not about religion' but about 'protecting our own citizens and border.'
Tens of thousands of people protested the action in cities and airports across the US, company executives came out against the order, and top Republicans split with their president to criticize Trump's approach.
Trump proclaimed January 22 through January 28, 2017 as National School Choice Week.
The ceremonial move aimed to encourage people to demand school-voucher programs and charter schools, of which Trump's Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos is a vocal supporter. Meanwhile, opponents argue that the programs weaken public schools and fund private schools at taxpayers' expense.
Trump outlined his intentions to build a wall along the US border with Mexico, one of his main campaign promises.
The order also directs the immeditate detainment and deportation of illegal immigrants, and requires state and federal agencies tally up how much foreign aid they are sending to Mexico within 30 days, and tells the US Customs and Border Protection to hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents.
While Trump has claimed Mexico will pay for the wall, his administration has since softened this pledge, indicating US taxpayers may have to foot the bill, at least at first.
Trump called 'sanctuary cities' to comply with federal immigration law or have their federal funding pulled.
The order has prompted a mixture of resistance and support from local lawmakers and police departments in the sanctuary cities, which typically refuse to honor federal requests to detain people on suspicion of violating immigration law even if they were arrested on unrelated charges. The city of San Francisco is already suing Trump, claiming the order is unconstitutional.
The order allows governors or heads of federal agencies to request an infrastructure project be considered 'high-priority' so it can be fast-tracked for environmental review.
Trump signed the order as a package infrastructure deal, along with two memoranda on oil pipelines.
Trump signed three separate memoranda set to expand oil pipelines in the United States, a move immediately decried by Native American tribes, Democrats, and activists.
The first two direct agencies to immediately review and approve construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, and the third requires all pipeline materials be built in the US.
While pipeline proponents argue that they transport oil and gas more safely than trains or trucks can, environmentalists say pipelines threaten the contamination of drinking water.
The move reinstated a global gag rule that bans American non-governmental organisations working abroad from discussing abortion.
Democratic and Republican presidents have taken turns reinstating it and getting rid of it since Ronald Reagan created the gag order in 1984. The rule, while widely expected, dismayed women's rights and reproductive health advocates, but encouraged antiabortion activists.
Trump froze all hiring in the executive branch excluding the military, directing no vacancies be filled, in an effort to cut government spending and bloat.
Union leaders called the action 'harmful and counterproductive,' saying it would 'disrupt government programs and services that benefit everyone.'
This action signaled Trump's intent to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that would lower tariffs for 12 countries around the Pacific Rim, including Japan and Mexico but excluding China.
Results were mixed. Sen. Bernie Sanders said he was 'glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone,' while Republican Sen. John McCain said withdrawing was a 'serious mistake.'
One of Trump's top campaign promises was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
His first official act in office was declaring his intention to do so. Congressional Republicans have been working to do just that since their term started January 3, though there's dissent among Republicans over whether or not to complete the repeal process before a replacement plan is finalized and strident Democratic resistance to any repeal of the ACA.
Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Priebus signed this action, directing agency heads not to send new regulations to the Office of the Federal Register until the administration has leaders in place to approve them.
Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel signed a similar memorandum when he took office in 2009, but as Bloomberg notes, Priebus changed the language from a suggestion to a directive.
The action is partly carried out to make sure the new administration wants to implement any pending regulations the old one was considering. Environmentalists worried if this could mean Trump is about to undo many of Obama's energy regulations.
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