What has Trump’s Executive Order machine gun targeted first?

By: Richard W. Sharp & Patrick W. Zimmerman

It would be ok. Trump didn’t want to be president, whispered the rumors. It would be fine because he wouldn’t do any of the work necessary to try and enact any of his possibly-ad-libbed-on-the-spot campaign promises.

WRONG. Fake news. Horrible coverage. Sad!

Someone who doesn’t want the job doesn’t sign 20 executive actions in his first 14 days in office (8 executive orders, 12 Presidential memoranda). His tiny hands have been very, very busy. Understanding the limits of the executive branch might still be a challenge for Big Orange (as is testing them), but he’s certainly been trying to fulfill campaign promises from the Eagle’s Nest like there’s a midnight deadline for decrees.

The question

Just before the inauguration, we we identified 11 causes that were clearly under threat from the new administration. While it’s a high possibility that he’s eventually planning on getting around to attacking them all, what does he (or the Shadow Council around him) really care about? Let his executive actions speak louder than his tweets (we define executive actions as executive orders, presidential memoranda, bills signed or vetoed, basically anything that requires his signature and directs the government to action).

Which causes have priority (whether as a result of strategy or an indication of their import)? Which executive actions come first? Who’s at the head of the line?

The short-short version

The Environment and Muslim immigrants have been the clear early targets of the regime. While the latter has been dominating the news for the last week, environmentalism has actually been the target of slightly more memoranda and executive orders.

The Gay Agenda will have to wait its turn, apparently, while he’s busy building a southern wall to protect us from Syrian refugee graduate students and rolling back the great Chinese global warming conspiracy.

The context

In the twilight of his administration, Obama, faced with unified congressional obstruction, turned to the executive order and similar executive prerogatives (e.g., presidential power to conduct foreign relations leading to the nuclear deal with Iran). Carefully crafted directives were used to forward his agenda in ways that could withstand judicial challenges (sometimes) and congressional meddling.

Perhaps emboldened by Obama’s approach, Pr*sident Trump has been busy signing thoughtful, well structured, legally defensible, morally unobjectionable executive orders that will advance the common cause of the peoples of the United States. Or not.

Now, he does know how to craft a sternly worded letter, but the effluence which has issued forth from his pen in these opening weeks has, perhaps, not gone quite the way he imagined it would. Perhaps it is merely the opening move of a cunning plan by which he appears to keep campaign promises by simply stating that he has, but it has so far emboldened his enemies and comforted those opposed to his rule. 

The Executive Action chart

Here’s the list of our causes under threat and the Executive actions that are (already) putting them under assault, sorted from Trump’s top early priorities to ones he’ll get around to when he has time in his busy schedule. Lots of things need destroying, and some are just going to have to wait their turn.

Note: we’re defining executive actions as: executive orders, presidential memoranda, bills signed into law, or vetoes issued. Yes, his very existence is a threat to a fact-based reality, but that would be an impossible project to track.


Executive Actions
Cause Count Type # Title Severity Notes
Slow climate change 1 Exec. Order 13766 Expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects Severe EPA review can be effectively bypassed for new construction projects.
2 Memo 2017-02032 Regarding construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline Moderate Unlikely protests will be able to stop this with an explicitly pro-pipeline administration.
3 Memo 2017-02035 Regarding construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline Mild This project was dead, will need to be restarted.
4 Memo 13766 Reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing Moderate Manufacturing is not necessarily polluting, just likely.
5 Signed bill H.J.Res.41 Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers”. Mild Oil, gas, and mineral extraction outside of the US no longer needs to disclose payments made to foreign governments.
Defend immigrant communities 1 Exec. Order 13767 Border security and immigration enforcement improvements Moderate, severe if actually built and depending on cooperation of repatriation authorities. Build the Wall.
2 Exec. Order 13768 Enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States Moderate, depends on how many cities cave (Miami has). Punish sanctuary cities.
3 Exec. Order 13769 Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States Severe Extreme vetting, 7 country immigration ban. Syrian refugee program ended.
Reduce racism and combat white nat’lism 1 Exec. Order 13767 Border security and immigration enforcement improvements Mild Indirect effects of EO targeted at other groups.
2 Exec. Order 13768 Enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States Mild Indirect effects of EO targeted at other groups.
3 Exec. Order 13769 Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States Mild Indirect effects of EO targeted at other groups.
A nuclear-free world 1 Memo 2017-02282 Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces Severe “(b) The Secretary shall initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review to ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies. (c) The Secretary shall initiate a new Ballistic Missile Defense Review to identify ways of strengthening missile-defense capabilities, rebalancing homeland and theater defense priorities, and highlighting priority funding areas.”
2 Exec. Order 2017-02381 Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council Moderate Steve Bannon replaces Joseph Dunford (Chair of JCS). Nuke use more likely.
Expand healthcare access 1 Exec. Order 13765 Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal Mild (so far) As of 2/14/17, IRS will no longer enforce penalties on taxpayers who refuse to answer the healthcare coverage question on their tax returns.
Women’s rights 1 Memo 2017-01843 Regarding the Mexico City Policy Moderate Prohibits NGOs that perform or assist abortions from receiving US funds. Instituted by Reagan, revoked by Clinton, instituted by Bush II, revoked by Obama. Trump’s memo directs the Sec. of State to try and expand the ban to all global health assistance by the US.

What next?

The short version? Pay attention to what happens in the other branches of government.

Donald Trump has made his decisions, now let us see if he can enforce them. The Andrew Jackson school of checks and balances worked in 1832 to radically tilt that balance in favor of the executive branch. Will the Trump Administration have as much luck forcibly removing its undesirables over the objections of the judicial branch? A lot is going to depend on how cooperative its erstwhile allies are in Congress and on the new balance in the Supreme Court.

If, in 2 years, the chart above is stocked with bills signed into law after being served up by a House of Representatives in lock-step with The Movement, then most of the left and left-center causes our Anti-Trump Charity List are likely to already be in full retreat, if not already defeated, and this new, white nationalist, populist version of the Republican Party will have been consolidated, well on its way to expanding its power in the 2018 election. The last vestiges of the Old Republic will have been swept away.

Conversely, if the Old Guard of the Republican Party, still very much ascendant in both houses of Congress, is as prone to in-Party power struggles and resistant to Presidential oversight as the Democrats were from 2008-10, then a much more limited amount of Trump’s executive actions are going to result in his desired outcomes.

Is he going to continue to viciously target any organization or person, inside or outside of his government, that defies him, trying to bully them either into submission or irrelevance? Almost certainly. It’s who he is, how he campaigned, and how he’s governed. He’s not remotely shy about attacking members or appointees of his own party (Judge James Robart, his Twitter target du jour, is a Bush-appointed federal judge generally considered a pretty vanilla Republican).

The key question over the duration of this presidency is going to be whether or not the consequences of pissing off the President prove too high for this many people (inside and outside Washington) to continue thumbing their nose at him over all but the most over-the-top actions. Governing by edict with an actively uncooperative legislative branch as well as an actively rebelling civil service is probably unfeasible. Unless, of course, Trump decides to purchase the upgrade from Populist-with-strong-Fascist-leanings to Military Dictator. But that remains the purview of dystopian novels and conspiracy theories. For now.

A ver

About The Author

Architeuthis Rex, a man of (little) wealth and (questionable) taste. Historian and anthropologist interested in identity, regionalism / nationalism, mass culture, and the social and political contexts in which they exist. Earned Ph.D. in social and cultural History with a concentration in anthropology from Carnegie Mellon University and then (mostly) fled academia to write things that more than 10 other people will actually read. Driven to pursue a doctorate to try and answer the question, "Why do they all hate each other?" — still working on it. Plays beer-league hockey, softball, and soccer. Professional toddler wrangler. Likes dogs, good booze, food, and horribly awesome kung-fu movies.

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