What has President Trump done so far?

An overview of the executive orders, memoranda and proclamations the president has passed in his first weeks in Office

Less than a month ago, Donald Trump became our new president, sparking massive controversy and upheaval from communities across the United States. By the standard of previous presidencies, Trump seems to have compressed the first hundred days of his administration into six, publicly enacting 13 decisive actions before the close of his first official week in office. This unexpected hyperactivity has triggered a wide range of reactions across William Jewell College’s campus.

Contrary to popular belief, not all of these actions have been executive orders. Of the thirteen actions that appeared in his first week, only four are executive orders, eight are presidential memoranda and one is a proclamation. According to “USA Today,” the difference between an executive order and a memorandum is minute. In essence, a memorandum is a less official version of an executive order. An executive order is legally required to be published in the Federal Register, but there is no provision that memoranda need to be published at all. Trump, however, has published some of his memoranda on the White House website for public viewing. While executive orders and memoranda both apply to the internal workings of the government, presidential proclamations are more relevant to those outside of the government and tend to have fewer political implications. For example, Trump’s first proclamation of his presidency, enacted Jan. 22, is entitled the “National School Choice Week 2017 Proclamation.” It commends the nation’s schools and teachers, and renews the commitment to allowing both students and parents a choice in where to attend school, as opposed to the current system, in which school choice is a matter of location.

Trump’s executive orders and memoranda are significantly more controversial than his proclamations. His first four executive orders are as follows: Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal, released Jan. 20; Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects, released Jan. 24; Border Security and Immigration Improvements, released Jan. 25; and Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, released Jan. 25. A few of his most controversial memoranda regard the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a hiring freeze in the executive branch, the Mexico City Policy and the United States withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement.

Trump’s next weeks in office did not show any intention of slowing down. Jan. 30, he signed an executive order enacting staunch immigration restrictions on citizens* from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 120 days. Syrian refugees are banned from entering the United States until further notice. Many American citizens have responded with adamant protest, demonstrating at airports across the country.

Jewell students from both political parties are concerned about the backlash of Trump’s actions. Rebecca Wolfe, chairman of the William Jewell Democrats commented on the decision.

“I was shocked by President Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim countries,” said Wolfe.  “It’s unsurprising that he took a hardline stance on refugees from these countries, but the ban has affected our legitimacy in the eyes of our allies who, due to their proximity to countries experiencing massive migratory shifts, do not have the ability to prevent refugees from turning up on their borders.”

Chairman of William Jewell College Republicans and junior political science and international relations major, Jameson O’Connor, expressed hesitancies about Trump’s tactfulness in executing his actions.

“Across the border with all of these executive orders, when you paint with a broad brush, you can become kind of inaccurate and discriminate with your policy.”

However, O’Connor stated  that there are legitimate reasons for the executive decision. “I don’t really think it hurts when carefully applied, and this is coming from a second generation American,” said O’Connor. “My grandparents immigrated from Ireland, so I understand the sensitive nature of immigration, but national security comes before it.”

Although generally dispirited with Trump’s administration, Wolfe has indicated approval of some of Trump’s actions. “He has vowed to continue Obama’s executive order that put legal protections in place for LGBTQ+ workers,” said Wolfe. “Additionally, he handled Iran’s ballistic missile testing by sanctioning several individuals and companies from the country. The ability to act decisively is an important quality in the American president; deterrence depends on the credibility of threat. That credibility, if maintained and curated, will allow us to influence Iran without making war more likely.” (For more context on this point, please refer to the transcript of the article here.)

She added that Trump’s moderate plans concerning Israeli settlements are practical.

“I am hoping that Trump will maintain this stance after talks with Netanyahu. This would be beneficial to America’s reputation on the world stage,” said Wolfe.

In spite of the present unrest about the new administration, Jewell students are advocating for optimism. “I hope people have more faith in our system of government,” said O’Connor, “and if and when he goes too far, there is this thing called checks and balances, and it’s proved pretty effective in the past.”

Wolfe made a similar point.

“We live in a time of enormous anxiety from within and without the United States,” Wolfe said. “I am deeply encouraged by the distinctly American response to these anxieties. From marches to boycotts to petitions to hashtags, Americans have remained an adversarial people whose right to criticize the government is both valued and deeply ingrained.”

Jewell’s campus is eagerly watching Trump’s administration, and is committed to maintaining a positive outlook about the future of our country.

*A previous version of the article referred to the citizens as “Muslims,” but we recognize the immigration ban was intended for all of the citizens in the seven banned countries, not just Muslims. In another article, the ban was explained correctly. The editors regret the mistake.


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