By William Washington
Since the election has come and gone, the nation finally got back to normal, right? Wrong. President Trump hit the ground running with seven executive orders in a matter of 10 days.
Trump met with many world leaders, kick-started the pipelines back-up, fired U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, silenced government agencies he considered going rogue on Twitter and other social media sites, insulted and argued with media outlets about crowd size and nominated a conservative Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, as promised during his campaign.
Time Magazine reporter Zeke Miller tweeted that the bust of the late Martin Luther King Jr. was removed from the Oval Office. This tweet was incorrect, according to Miller who apologized for the mistake. White House Communications Director Sean Spicer accepted the apology from Miller by tweeting “Apology accepted.”
These actions and claims caused the administration to start its term on the defensive and said they will rethink libel laws for the media. The media as a whole has been scrambling to try and cover all of these events and analyze them.
The White House then had issue with how media outlets reported inaugural crowd size, which was compared to the 2009 inaugural crowd size. Split-screened photos showed President Barack Obama’s inaugural crowd was larger than President Trump’s.
This struck a chord with the White House and caused backlash, with Sean Spicer defending President Trump’s view of the crowd size. On Jan. 21, the New York Times reported President Trump as stating that the media was, “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and that he calculated 1.5 million spectators at his inauguration.
Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, also came to the President’s aid by telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that both sides could be correct and that the President was just giving “alternative facts.”
These events, however exciting, are not the meat and potatoes of what the current administration is attempting to accomplish.
On Jan. 20, President Trump signed Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal,” which orders the executive branch to uphold the Affordable Care Act until the Trump administration can repeal and replace the act.
This order directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all other heads of departments and agencies to prevent “a fiscal burden being put on a state ... or a cost, fee tax or penalty on recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or maker of medical devices, products, or medications.”
The order also pushes for states’ rights to decide how they implement the repeal and replace the ACA as well as encourages heads of departments and agencies to develop and improve healthcare services and insurance. The EO also encourages, “maximum options for patients and consumers.”
The ACA EO continuously mentions using the laws and powers of offices that are already in place to lay the groundwork for the repeal of “Obamacare,” another example of Trump keeping his word, post campaign.
Executive Order: Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects focuses on maximizing the efficiency of the White House Council on Environmental Quality as well as other departments. The order gives the Chairperson of the CEQ 30 days to decide if the infrastructure project is a priority. If the council cannot decide they “must provide a written explanation” and provide the chairperson a plan of how and when the decision will be made.
Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States refers to the Immigration and Nationality Act to urge executive departments and agencies to implement U.S. immigration laws by removing what it calls “aliens,” especially those who have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offences,” as well as cutting federal funds to those persons and jurisdictions who aid any “aliens” living in the U.S., according to Sec. 2, 3, 4, 5 of the EO. Sec. 6 of the order commands the Secretary of Homeland Security to assess and collect “all fines and penalties that the Secretary is authorized under the law to assess and collect from aliens unlawfully present in the United States and from those who facilitate their presence in the United States.”
The AG and the Secretary of Homeland Security are directed to “work together to develop and implement a program … to reduce violent crime” coming into the U.S. and calls for 10,000 additional immigration officers.
Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements purposes to add 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents to be assigned to the various duty stations, “plan, design, and construct a physical wall,” appoint immigration judges to detention facilities and access to all federal lands. In the order, the President directs state officers to be used as immigration officers. However, there are checks and balances in place that will keep this under control.
“The key phrase here is “to the extent permitted by law.” The Supreme Court has been fairly consistent in stating that the federal government cannot commandeer state personnel or resources in enforcing federal laws. In Both New York v. United States (1992) and Printz v. United States (1997), the Court firmly stated that the national government could not force state or local governments to enforce federal law,” said Professor James Davenport.
This brings up other questions that might come from much of the wording of the orders. “To the maximum extent permitted by law,” might sound off putting to some though, Professor Brandon Burris clarified.
“This is a common disclaimer in the legal world. If you remove the unnecessary rhetorical flourish, “maximum,” it becomes easier to see: “to the extent permitted by law.”
Basically, it clarifies that the identified policies are ordering the official to take the identified actions only to the extent permitted by law,” Burris said.
The phrase “to the maximum extent permitted by law” does not give any official any special powers. And in fact the orders state that they will accomplish their purpose within the current structure of the law.
“Also notably, a federal employee who, while following the Executive Order, violates an individual’s rights under the United States Constitution could be sued by the individual under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388(1971),” explained Burris.
From Jan. 27 to Feb. 9, Trump signed eight more executive orders, ranging from his EO reducing regulation and the costs therein, to reducing crime and the order of succession within the Department of Justice. These are among events that will be an ongoing series regarding Trump’s first 100 days in office.