My Own Personal Grey

Down the Executive Orders Rabbit Hole

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Just because I wanted to know, as of 17:30 Eastern Time yesterday (Saturday, January 28, 2017) Trump had signed 15 Executive Orders (“EOs”). That’s a first-week-in-office record, but not by a lot (Obama held the previous record with 13 in his first week.) [per Tamara Keith at NPR http://www.npr.org/2017/01/28/512055554/trump-signs-a-record-number-of-executive-actions-but-nothing-about-ethics ].

Executive Orders (also called Proclamations, Memoranda, and Letters depending on their scope and focus) are weird beasts. I’ll quote the Washington Post for a quick-and-dirty explanation: “Basically, an executive order is an official statement from the president about how the federal agencies he oversees are to use their resources.” [per Aaron Blake, The Fix, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/27/what-is-an-executive-order-and-how-do-president-trumps-stack-up/ ]. Although they aren’t specifically named, they are derived from Article II of the Constitution, describing “executive actions.”

I had labored under the assumption that EOs were a late-coming development, but, no, George Washington started them with his April 22, 1793 instruction to federal officers to prosecute any citizens interfering with the war between England and France. (Congress was out of session, so Washington was empowered to act “in emergency.”) And they’ve been with us ever since. HowStuffWorks.com has a pretty clear and simple article by Dave Roos about EOs, their origins, and how they work (or don’t) here: http://people.howstuffworks.com/executive-order.htm

There’s a complete record of Executive Orders at the Presidency Project Online (compiled by John Woolley and Gerhard Peters and hosted by the University of California at Santa Barbara) at: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/orders.php This is updated on the 20th of every month, so it doesn’t yet list Trump’s EOs, but you can find those published through January 28 here (but does not yet contain the Ethics Memorandum mentioned by NPR and referenced at the top of my post): http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/trump-executive-actions-orders/index.html

And there you have it: Executive Orders and Trump’s EOs, as of Sunday January 29, 2017, to the best of my reportorial ability to ferret out weird facts. (I feel the need to break out my mad Journalism skillz once in a while.)

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