Skip to navigationSkip to content

Barack Obama signed more executive actions in his first 12 days than Donald Trump

  • Keith Collins
By Keith Collins

Tech Reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

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:

PresidentTypeDate signedTitle
Bill ClintonExecutive order1/20/93Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees
Bill ClintonExecutive order1/25/93Establishment of the National Economic Council
Bill ClintonPresidential memo1/21/93Memorandum on Review of Regulations
Bill ClintonPresidential memo1/22/93Memorandum on Fetal Tissue Transplantation Research
Bill ClintonPresidential memo1/22/93Memorandum on the Title X “Gag Rule”
Bill ClintonPresidential memo1/22/93Memorandum on the Mexico City Policy
Bill ClintonPresidential memo1/22/93Memorandum on Abortions in Military Hospitals
Bill ClintonPresidential memo1/22/93Memorandum on Importation of RU-486
Bill ClintonPresidential memo1/29/93Memorandum on Ending Discrimination in the Armed Forces
George W. BushExecutive order1/29/01Agency Responsibilities With Respect to Faith- Based and Community Initiatives
George W. BushExecutive order1/29/01Establishment of White House Office of Faith- Based and Community Initiatives
George W. BushPresidential memo1/20/01Memorandum on Standards of Official Conduct
George W. BushPresidential memo1/22/01Memorandum on Restoration of the Mexico City Policy
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/21/09Presidential Records
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/21/09Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/22/09Ensuring Lawful Interrogations
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/22/09Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained At the Guantnamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/22/09Review of Detention Policy Options
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/30/09Economy in Government Contracting
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/30/09Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/30/09Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws
Barack ObamaExecutive order1/30/09Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Regulatory Planning and Review
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/30/09Memorandum on the White House Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/31/09Memorandum on Regulatory Review
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/21/09Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/21/09Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/21/09Memorandum on Pay Freeze
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/22/09Memorandum on Review of the Detention of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/23/09Memorandum on Mexico City Policy and Assistance for Voluntary Population Planning
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/26/09Memorandum on the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/26/09Memorandum on the State of California Request for Waiver Under 42 U.S.C. 7543(b), the Clean Air Act
Barack ObamaPresidential memo1/27/09Memorandum on Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs Related to Gaza
Donald TrumpExecutive order1/20/17Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal
Donald TrumpExecutive order1/24/17Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects
Donald TrumpExecutive order1/25/17Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements
Donald TrumpExecutive order1/25/17Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States
Donald TrumpExecutive order1/27/17Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Employees
Donald TrumpExecutive order1/27/17Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States
Donald TrumpExecutive order1/30/17Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/20/17Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies – Regulatory Freeze Pending Review
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/23/17Memorandum Regarding the Mexico City Policy
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/23/17Memorandum Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/23/17Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/24/17Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/24/17Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/24/17Memorandum Regarding Construction of American Pipelines
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/24/17Memorandum Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/27/17Memorandum on Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/28/17Memorandum Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Donald TrumpPresidential memo1/28/17Memorandum Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.