This article was updated on Wednesday February 1.
In his first 12 days in office, President Donald Trump has lost no time in enacting key campaign pledges, including some of the most controversial.
The new occupant of the White House has issued more than a dozen executive actions – sometimes carried out before the cameras in the Oval Office with a flourish of the presidential pen.
Trump is not the first US president to use such tools; his predecessor issued his fair share too. But the new president’s actions have brought almost permanent controversy – illustrated once again with his nomination of conservative federal judge Neil Gorsuch for the US Supreme Court, to the consternation of Democrats.
Amid rows with the media, protests in the streets and a regular Trump Twitter storm, the president has sent a message that a leopard doesn’t change its spots, even when burdened with global responsibility.
Donald Trump has issued several such orders since taking office on January 20. Within hours of his inauguration, the new president set in motion the process of repealing Obamacare, his first executive order aimed at minimising the financial burdens of his predecessor’s Affordable Care Act.
On day four in office, Trump’s second executive order covered infrastructure, aimed at speeding up the process for grand projects which the president said would create millions of jobs.
The next day saw action on one of the president’s most notorious campaign pledges, in the form of two executive orders unveiled during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security. Trump’s third executive order sets out the steps to be taken “to construct a physical wall along the southern border” with Mexico.
The fourth executive order targets so-called “sanctuary” states and cities that harbour undocumented migrants, threatening to withdraw federal funding and looking to step up deportations.
If not the most controversial, for many the most shocking order – as it came as a surprise – was published just before the weekend: the fifth executive order seeking to protect America from “foreign terrorist entry into the United States”. The temporary ban on refugees and immigrants from seven mainly-Muslim countries sparked international outrage, but a federal judge halted deportations and other lawsuits are on the horizon.
On Monday came another executive order aimed at freeing up business from red tape. It includes the instruction that for every new regulation proposed by officialdom, at least two existing ones must be identified for repeal.
When a president's executive order crosses into the realm of policymaking or violates the law, lawsuits pop up https://t.co/HHbjJYAjAm— The Economist (@TheEconomist) January 31, 2017
Memorandums and proclamations
As well as the executive orders, President Trump has signed a number of presidential memoranda – which have less legal force but still have important consequences in setting out policy priorities.
- He moved quickly to halt new federal regulations pending review by the new administration.
- The president imposed a recruitment freeze on federal government, exempting the military.
- Another memorandum called for the US to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a largely symbolic move as the deal had not been ratified by Congress.
- Two more actions seek to renew controversial projects to build the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
- One Republican favourite, the “Mexico City policy”, or “global gag rule” to its critics, is back – banning US funding for international non-governmental organisations that promote abortion.
- Administration officials have been banned from lobbying the US on behalf of a foreign government.
- Another memorandum seeks to “rebuild the US armed forces” and “pursue peace through strength”.
- The president also orders a new plan “to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” to be drawn up within 30 days.
The presidential actions are listed on the White House website.
A cheat sheet for executive orders, memorandums & proclamations via PBS
NewsHour</a> <a href="https://t.co/guq0Ccpnep">https://t.co/guq0Ccpnep</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/executiveorder?src=hash">#executiveorder</a> refugee</p>— Carol Taylor, RDN (caa_taylor) January 28, 2017
Will the presidential actions immediately take effect?
The impact of some of Trump’s actions have been felt immediately – notably the order to ban immediately certain categories of people from entering the US. Several of the orders and memos sparked protests and heated debate.
Others – such as the order to build the Mexico border wall – will need legislative action and funding approval from Congress.
Above all, the actions are designed to send out a clear signal that the new president remains true to his campaign pledges on key themes. But putting them into practice is another matter – as some analysts have pointed out.