President Donald Trump has taken at least six executive actions since he was sworn in as president, but half of them remain secret.
The text of two of them – weakening the health care law and freezing regulations – were emailed to reporters. The third was revealed in a letter from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to lenders and real estate brokers about the roll back of a policy that would have reduced the cost of mortgages for millions of home buyers. But the language of the remaining three hasn’t been released; their existence is known from a single tweet by White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, which pushes for transparency in government, said the decision not to post the information online as former President Barack Obama cut out “millions of Americans.” Trump’s team, he said, needs to realize that he is not campaigning anymore, but governing.
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The website was revamped Friday to include bios of the new president and vice president and their wives and scrubbed of references to gay and lesbian issues and global warming.
Yet even as Trump staffers failed to release executive actions, they surprised some by keeping two items on the White House website – a log listing visitors to the White House and a space for petitions urging the administration to act on certain issues. Both were started by the Obama administration.
The visitor log is blank but already six petitions have cropped up under the We the People page, launched in 2011 as a way to give the public a voice in what issues the White House would tackle.
Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs of the government watchdog group Common Cause, said maintaining the status quo for now is fine but said he was taking a wait-and-see approach. “I hope they keep them up,” he said.
A petition calling for Trump to release his tax returns quickly reached the 100,000 signature threshold needed to get a White House response within 30 days. The five others call for Trump to resign, for him to put his businesses in a blind trust, let farmers grow hemp, revoke the Firearms Act and repeal a ban limiting citizens from owning certain automatic weapons.
“I suspect even the citizen participation pages will be removed in fairly short order,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the nonpartisan public advocacy group Public Citizen. “It will take only one citizen petition on a controversial substantive issue to draw the administration’s attention that these pages, too, can contradict the Trump agenda.”
Trump is expected to implement a flurry of executive actions Monday on illegal immigration, the environment and ethics, his aides said. But they have not said whether they would disclose them to the public.
Trump and his aides say he is working to withdraw from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, cancel restrictions on energy production, including shale energy and clean coal, alter visa programs and restrict members of his administration from becoming lobbyists for five years after they leave government and banning them from lobbying foreign governments.
Others are expecting Trump to immediately direct the government to deport 2 million convicted criminals who he says are in the United States illegally. But some transition officials are urging him to wait before tackling the deportation of immigrants.