We are twelve days into Donald Trump’s presidency. Twelve days, and I am exhausted. I am mentally and emotionally exhausted by all that has occurred since he took office. Did I mention that it’s only been twelve days? Because I keep reminding myself that we aren’t even a full two weeks into this administration, and I feel like we’ve already hit so many walls (no pun intended. Actually, scratch that. Pun definitely intended.) with regard to constitutionality and executive orders.
In just the first ten days of his presidency, Trump issued twenty executive orders. He has more than doubled the number of orders that President Obama, for all the criticism he received on his numerous executive orders, issued in his first ten days. I will say that, in his defense (yes, I am actually defending Donald Trump, but don’t get used to it), he did win a change election. While we can argue about the Electoral College vs popular vote specifics, Donald Trump managed to win an election by convincing the right people in the right places that he would change many things upon his arrival in Washington. So while I am dumbfounded by the sheer number of executive orders he’s issued thus far, I can’t argue with the justification for such a volume.
The content of those orders is another story entirely. Let’s run down a quick list of what he’s authorized so far, shall we?
- Authorized beginning construction on the border wall, which Congress will have to find a way to fund.
- Authorized beginning construction on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, both of which are very controversial and have been met with vigorous protests.
- Officially declared that the U.S. would not be ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
- Instituted an outright ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East.
- Instructed government agencies to “ease the burden” of Obamacare as Republicans in Congress move toward repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
- Authorized withholding federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to turn over arrested illegal immigrants to ICE for deportation.
- Imposed a lifetime ban on administration officials lobbying for any foreign governments, and a five-year ban on lobbying of any kind after leaving the administration.
- Approved an order that requires two regulations be eliminated for every single new regulation put in place.
- Reinstated the Mexico City policy, which restricts giving of federal funds to foreign charitable organizations that promote or provide resources for abortion.
- Instituted a government-wide hiring freeze on federal employees, with exceptions for the military and the V.A.
- Issued a presidential memorandum that requires a plan to defeat ISIS be drawn up within 30 days.
- Elevated Steve Bannon to full membership on the National Security Council, which downgraded the roles of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence.
- Directed agencies and individuals responsible for compiling reports on the environmental impacts of infrastructure projects to complete and return their reports in a more timely manner.
There are countless more executive orders and presidential memorandums that I neglect to mention for the sake of time and my own sanity. Even so, the orders listed above are numerous and controversial to say the least. Thus far we have already seen vehement backlash to the immigration ban, the Steve Bannon NSC appointment, and the authorization to build a border wall that has not yet been funded by Congress. This president, for all his talk of working with Congress and giving power back to the people, has exercised his own authority to circumvent the people and Congress as he implements his twisted agenda.
We have survived twelve days that have felt like twelve months. I shudder to imagine what comes next in the Trump presidency. As we all step back to review his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, I find myself wondering what else he plans to accomplish in just the first month of what is going to be a long four years. I can only guess at what comes next: fights with Congress if Betsy DeVos is not approved as the Secretary of Education (two Republicans have already said they plan to vote against her), pressure from the president on Mitch McConnell to use the nuclear option and only require a 51-vote majority for Supreme Court nominations, and a looming ACLU lawsuit that has already been filed against the immigration ban. What new threats will we face as the administration continues to blaze its own path through the norms of government and politics? Only time will tell.
As a final note, I have consistently seen those on the left calling for Trump’s impeachment, or at least suggesting that he’ll face impeachment before he faces another election. The cynic in me says that Republicans in Congress would never live down that they impeached a president from their own party. But the realist in me sees that Trump has already overstepped his constitutional authority on a number of occasions. His immigration ban and elevation of a media mogul to the National Security Council are two of the most flagrant and deliberate abuses of presidential power I have ever seen, and I can only imagine that security hawks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are not going to let the Bannon issue in particular slide without any kind of resistance to such a huge departure.
It is entirely possible that we could see this president face impeachment before his first term ends. It’s also entirely possible that this president will be the ultimate test of our democracy. In the end, he may prove America’s greatness, just not in the manner he intended. He may, through his destructive actions and overwhelming distaste for any criticism, show the world that this nation can truly survive all threats, foreign and especially domestic. That notion gives me hope, but it also concerns me that this man, with his nationalist tendencies and his delicate ego, may legitimately be in power for four years. And it’s only been twelve days.