Over the past 12 months, President Trump has been on a mission to try to erase Barack Obama’s legacy.
“I’ve been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor,” Trump boasted in November before lamenting that he could not go so far as to reverse Obama’s pardon of two Thanksgiving turkeys.
By that point in his presidency, however, Trump had already taken aim at what he and many Republicans regarded as executive overreach by the Obama administration, dismantling dozens of actions put in place by the previous White House occupant.
Whether a necessary philosophical corrective or a vindictive obsession, Trump’s executive-order counteroffensive carries more than mere symbolic value and represents a dramatic policy shift that will impact the nation and the world for years to come.
Here are the 10 most significant Trump reversals of Obama orders so far.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
Hundreds of students skipped school on Nov. 9 to demand that Congress pass a clean Dream Act. (Photo: Astrid Riecken for the Washington Post)
Hundreds of students skipped school on Nov. 9 to demand that Congress pass a clean Dream Act.
Signed in 2012, Obama’s executive order offering legal protections from deportation to children brought into the country by undocumented immigrant parents offered a legal respite for nearly 800,000 people. While it was not a permanent solution, many Republicans in Congress sided with Democrats in the view that children protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should ultimately be granted U.S. citizenship. But on Sept. 5, 2017, President Trump put that possibility in doubt. “Make no mistake, we are going to put the interest of AMERICAN CITIZENS FIRST!” Trump tweeted ahead of an announcement by his attorney general that he was rescinding Obama’s action. The matter now rests with Congress.
Transfer of surplus military equipment to local police
Riot police stand guard in August 2014 as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
In 2015, in the wake of what some viewed as the outsize police response to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., Obama issued an order banning the sale of surplus military equipment such as grenade launchers and armored vehicles to local police forces. On Aug. 28, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Trump was scrapping the restriction “to make it easier to protect yourselves and your communities.”
Normalizing relations with Cuba
President Trump speaks about changes he is making toward Cuba in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood on June 16.
Denouncing the Obama administration’s 2014 decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Trump announced on June 16, 2017, that he was putting travel and trade restrictions with the island nation back in place. “The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people — they only enrich the Cuban regime,” Trump said in a Florida speech.
The Paris climate agreement
President Trump scoffs at temperature change as he announces that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
Trump has said he believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. His June 1, 2017, decision to walk away from the Paris climate agreement signed by his predecessor ultimately left the United States isolated as the only country in the world not onboard.
Offshore and Arctic oil drilling
Advocates for wildlife call on the Senate to drop Arctic refuge drilling from the GOP budget plan in October.
Making good on the long-held Republican slogan “Drill, baby, drill,” Trump overturned a 2016 Obama executive order banning oil drilling in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic.
“This is a great day for American workers and families,” Trump said at a signing ceremony on April 28, 2017. “And today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs.”
Demonstrators rally at the FCC building on Dec. 14 to protest the end of net neutrality rules.
Obama’s rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet — aka net neutrality — were enshrined in 2015 with a vote from the Federal Communications Commission. But new FCC commissioners are appointed by whichever president is serving, and when Trump took office he installed new leadership, which voted on Dec. 14 to scrap the policy, opening up the internet to what critics fear will result in a tiered system of information and entertainment.
The Clean Water Rule
Water flows through sediment retention ponds built to reduce contaminants from Colorado’s massive Gold King Mine accident in 2015.
On Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump began his assault on Obama’s executive order that expanded federal oversight of pollution in the nation’s rivers, streams and lakes. Trump’s first step was to order the EPA to “review and reconsider” the restrictions. Then, in June, the administration officially rolled back the environmental protections for over half of the nation’s tributaries.
Caps on greenhouse gas emissions at power plants
Emissions rise from the Bailly Generating Station on the shore of Lake Michigan in 2015.
Keeping a campaign promise to the coal industry, Trump signed an executive order on March 28, 2017, intended to begin dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required power plants to reduce carbon emissions. Trump’s new “Energy Independence” order also reversed a ban on coal leasing on federal lands and loosened restrictions on methane emissions. Several states immediately filed a lawsuit against the administration, claiming the move endangered the health of citizens.
Scope of national monuments
Protesters gather at the Utah State Capitol where President Trump speaks after drastically reducing the size of a Utah national monument.
Applauded by industry and decried by environmentalists, Trump signed an executive order on April 26, 2017, that swept away Obama’s use of the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect federal lands from oil drilling, mining and other development. “Today we’re putting the states back in charge,” he said at the signing. In December, the administration announced it would reduce the size of the Obama-created Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, and the Bill Clinton-designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50 percent.
Bathroom protections for transgender students
A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathroom in Durham, N.C., in 2016.
One month into his term, Trump rescinded an Obama directive that allowed students to use school bathrooms that matched their self-identified gender. Trump’s rationale for the reversal was that states, rather than the federal government, should decide how to handle the question.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten decried the move, telling the Associated Press that it “tells trans kids that it’s OK with the Trump administration and the Department of Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans.”