United States president Donald Trump signed 18 executive orders and memos in his first 12 days in office, for an average of 1.5 executive actions per day. While that may seem like an unprecedented bombardment of policy, the number of actions signed by Trump is actually one short of his predecessor. In his first 12 days in office in 2009, Barack Obama signed 19 executive actions.
These figures include both executive orders and presidential memos. Both are powerful directives issued by the executive branch; a main difference between them is that presidents typically cite their legal authority in executive orders, but not in presidential memos (other subtle differences between the actions are laid out here). Between Inauguration Day and Jan. 31, Trump signed seven executive orders and 11 memos; in the same time frame, Obama signed nine orders and 10 memos.
Some executive actions are controversial, some are procedural, and some simply reverse orders signed by prior presidents. Each of the past four presidents, for example, have signed an executive action either repealing (Democrats) or reinstating (Republicans) what’s known as the “Mexico City Policy,” a Reagan-era rule that withholds US funds from global organizations that provide abortion services. Trump reinstated the rule with a memo almost immediately after taking office.
Although Trump has signed fewer executive actions than Obama did in his first 12 days, Trump’s have been more varied and impactful. He’s signed an order to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, put in place a temporary ban on all refugees and restrictions on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, inked an order that paves the way for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, green-lit two controversial oil pipelines, and signed an order that dramatically restructures the National Security Council.
By contrast, Obama’s most scrutinized early orders sought to ban the use of torture in enemy interrogations, shut down the Central Intelligence Agency’s overseas prisons, and close Guantanamo Bay within a year. And the idea of closing Guantanamo Bay created enough controversy that, by 2011, Obama had essentially given it up. Today a few dozen detainees still remain at the prison.
Below is a list of executive orders signed by each president since Bill Clinton in their first 12 days in office:
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