What has President Trump done so far? Executive actions he’s taken and what they mean

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order with small business leaders in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on January 30, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — 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.

Trump is the latest in a long line of incoming commanders-in-chief flexing their executive muscles at the beginning of their presidency. Presidents, going all the way back to George Washington, have often taken unilateral steps to skirt past adverse lawmakers and bypass Congress.

Here’s a look at both the orders and memoranda President Trump has signed so far.

 

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 these 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.

Considering 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.

Day 5: “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 timely manner. This fulfills a campaign promise to make new spending on US infrastructure projects a priority of Trump’s 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.

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. White House officials have floated the idea of a 2o percent tariff on Mexican goods to pay for it.

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.

Day 8: “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States”

Keeping another campaign promise, this executive order indefinitely suspends admissions for Syrian refugees and limits the flow of people from certain countries into the United States. Non-US citizens from a few “terror-prone” countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia) are barred from entering the U.S. for 90 days. Additionally, it suspends the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. Travelers, immigrants, and refugees will be able to gain admittance to the U.S. only after the administration deems they are being “properly vetted” based on their country of origin.

After initial confusion over whether green card holders from those countries would also be affected, the White House has since said they may face additional screening when crossing back into the U.S., but would be permitted in on a “case-by-case” basis.

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.”

Day 11: “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs”

In an effort to reduce regulations, this order requires that for every new business regulation implemented by a regulatory agency, it must identify two to be cut. Trump said the purpose of the order is to make opening and expanding businesses easier. The final decision over which regulations to cut remains with the White House.

 

Trump’s first nine days of presidential memoranda

In addition to the executive orders, Trump signed eight presidential memoranda in the first nine days, 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.

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.

Day 1:

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.

Day 3:

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.

Day 4:

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.

Day 9:

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. There has been controversy over whether it 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.