President Trump signed the 30th executive order of his presidency on Friday, capping off a whirlwind period that produced more orders in his first 100 days than for any president since Harry Truman.
The rash of executive orders underlines Trump’s focus on reversing as much of the Obama administration’s policy agenda as he can, even as the new administration struggles to find legislative victories in Congress.
It fits Trump’s showman persona, as well: signing ceremonies for his orders are often in the Oval Office or in a well-furnished executive building, and see the president surrounded by administration officials, members of Congress or everyday Americans who, Trump says, he’s trying to help.
Trump and his aides have touted the orders as they have put a shine on his first 100 days in office.
“No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days,” Trump declared earlier this month at a Kenosha, Wis., event.
Trump is leaning heavily on executive orders and other unilateral actions to argue he’s done more than any predecessor.
“When you look at the totality of what we’ve accomplished on job creation, on immigration, on trade, it is unbelievable what he has been able to do,” press secretary Sean Spicer said earlier this week. “When you think about what he started — he’ll move forward on tax reform, healthcare, on immigration, on trade — it’s been a hugely successful first 100 days.”
The 30 orders haven’t been uniformly successful, however.
Trump’s ban on travel to the United States by people several predominantly Muslim nations has been stopped twice by the courts, to Trump’s consternation.
A directive to take away funding from sanctuary cities was also blocked by a federal judge.
They also amount to a bit of a turn-around for a president who, on the campaign trail, frequently criticized his predecessor, former President Obama, for relying too much on executive actions.
“I want to not use too many executive orders,” he said on the campaign trail last March.
“Executive orders sort of came about more recently. Nobody ever heard of an executive order, then all of a sudden Obama — because he couldn’t get anybody to agree with him — he starts signing them like they’re butter, so I want to do away with executive orders for the most part.”
Trump’s orders span industries and policy areas, from his inauguration day order on the Affordable Care Act to immigration, education and financial services.
No sector has drawn as much of the Trump administration’s attention than energy and the environment.
Trump signed an order in March aiming to undo President Obama’s entire climate change agenda, including a cornerstone regulation on greenhouse gas emissions. He’s also signed orders to reconsider fuel standards for vehicles, review monument designations he says stifle energy development and begin the process of advancing oil drilling in the Arctic.
Some of these orders have had an immediate impact: a directive advancing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, for instance, lead to quick federal approval for both projects.
Others will take months and even years to implement. Friday’s order on offshore drilling will require up to two years of review before it can take effect, officials said this week, and even then it will be subject to lawsuits that could delay the process further.
Despite the setbacks, executive orders have been one of Trump’s best outlets for claiming policy victories during his first 100 days.
Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress have yet to pass any signature laws, struggling to agree on a path forward for an ObamaCare repeal and only beginning to dip into tax reform, two key Trump campaign promises.
The legislation Congress has passed compliments Trump’s executive orders: 12 of the 30 bills to reach Trump’s desk have nullified rules issued in the last six months of the Obama administration, a deregulatory push that mirrors many of Trump’s orders.
Democrats have indicted Trump’s use of executive power.
“Attacking clean air, clean water for our children,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday. “He said we’re going to have clean air and clean water, and what does he do, undermine the EPA. Unleashing Wall Street, dismantling Americans’ privacy on the internet, as I mentioned, undermining American values.”
And his opponents this week have noted, with irony, his tough, pre-presidency stance against executive orders under Obama.
“Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?,” Trump wrote in a 2012 tweet about a national security order. “This is the latest.”
But the White House says the order fulfills a campaign promise to reverse as much of President Obama’s agenda as it can, “including rolling back the previous administration’s egregious overreach of government power,” a White House official said.
Trump himself noted his thirtieth order on Friday by telling reporters, “we’re getting a lot of things done.”
“I don’t think there’s ever been anything like this,” he said after signing the offshore drilling order. “It’s a false standard, 100 days, but I have to tell you, I don’t think anybody has done what we’ve been able to do in 100 days, so we’re very happy.”