WASHINGTON — On the morning of Jan. 21, 2017, his first full day in office, President Donald Trump will take a minute to settle behind the 19th-century Resolute desk, first used in the Oval Office by John F. Kennedy.
Then he will get very busy — if he follows through on his campaign promises for what he will do on his first day in office.
On Day 1, Trump has promised to redirect immigration enforcement, alter trade relations with China and other nations, relax restrictions on energy production, impose new rules on lobbyists, halt efforts to combat global warming, lift curbs on guns, push for congressional term limits and demand a new strategy for defeating the Islamic State. He may face some legal and procedural hurdles, but most of his Day 1 pledges involve issuing presidential directives, executive orders or memorandums that do not need legislative approval.
Although Trump and his top advisers have appeared to moderate some of his broader campaign pledges — they have suggested he might keep parts of the Affordable Care Act, delay building a wall along the border with Mexico and not appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails — Trump has said nothing to indicate that he won’t make good on his explicit Day 1 promises, many of which he delivered in his “Contract With the American Voter” during a speech in late October in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Moving quickly is, after all, a modern presidential tradition. On his first day in office, President Barack Obama imposed lobbying rules, closed secret interrogation facilities, banned torture and ordered the prison at Guantánamo Bay closed (an order that Congress has blocked to this day). Bowing to conservatives, on his first day, President George W. Bush ended funding of overseas clinics that provided abortion services.
Here is what Trump has said he will do:
Nowhere has Trump been more specific than in his desire to deal with immigration on his first day. During a campaign rally Aug. 31 in Phoenix, he told the crowd he would instruct his administration to begin deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records immediately.
“We will begin moving them out, Day 1,” he said. “My first hour in office, those people are gone.”
In fact, immigration enforcement agents at the Department of Homeland Security are under a mandate from Obama to deport criminals. The executive actions the president took in late 2014 order officials to focus on deporting “national security threats, convicted felons, gang members and illegal entrants apprehended at the border.”
But Trump does have wide latitude to direct an even more aggressive deportation effort, and he appears determined to do so quickly. He has said he will immediately end Obama’s program that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children. But it is unclear whether Trump will seek to quickly deport the 700,000 or so people who signed up for the program, or merely refuse to accept new applicants.
He has said he also plans on Day 1 to suspend immigration from “terror-prone” countries, and to impose “extreme vetting” on others. And he has said he will immediately inform sanctuary cities — about two dozen U.S. cities where officials have pledged not to prosecute people solely for being undocumented — that they will lose federal funding.
Economy and trade
Much of Trump’s campaign was built on a promise to help struggling U.S. workers who are frustrated by the loss of jobs, especially in the heartland.
The president-elect has said he intends to take several actions to pursue those policies on his first day, including announcing his intention to renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and to stop pursuing adoption of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Both actions are well within Trump’s powers as president.
He has promised to pick up the phone and order his Treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator, and to tell his commerce secretary to begin identifying foreign trade abuses.
He has also said he will call chief executives of major companies who have announced plans to move jobs overseas to warn them that he will impose 35 percent tariffs if they proceed. That promise may be difficult to keep: Tariffs require congressional approval, and the Constitution bans the imposition of taxes or tariffs specifically aimed at a single company.
The president-elect has taken direct aim at Obama’s actions on the environment and climate.
Trump has said that, on his first day in office, he will lift Obama-era rules that restrict where oil drilling and other energy production are done, although Trump may find it harder to change those plans than he thinks. In July, for example, Obama’s administration issued regulations making it harder to drill for oil in the Arctic by requiring extensive plans for containing spills. Undoing final regulations like the Arctic drilling rules would require a long legal process.
It may be easier to reconsider Obama’s ruling against construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring petroleum from Canada’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Trump has said he will indicate on his first day his desire to approve the pipeline. And he has promised to call U.N. officials the same day to inform them he is canceling U.S. financial commitments to U.N. climate change programs.
Other day 1 promises
At some point that day, Trump has said, he will convene a meeting of senior Pentagon officials to discuss the threat posed by the Islamic State and other terror groups. “I am also going to convene my top generals and give them a simple instruction: They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for defeating ISIS,” as the Islamic State is also known, Trump said in Greenville, North Carolina, during the campaign.
The president-elect has also promised to act to get rid of gun-free zones around schools and other facilities, a nod to his Second Amendment supporters. “My first day, it gets signed, OK?” he said at a January rally. “My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”
But that may be a tough promise to keep. Gun-free zones are a result of a 1990 law proposed by Joe Biden, then a senator, and ending them would require legislation that Congress is unlikely to pass on Trump’s first day in office.
It will be easier to make good on his promises to attack corruption in Washington. He has said he will propose term limits for members of Congress, impose restrictions on the creation of new regulations and limit the lobbying activities of White House and congressional officials after they leave office.