Republican President-elect Donald J. Trump began the transition process this month following his Nov. 8 election victory, laying out a plan for his first 100 days in office, choosing several individuals to serve in his cabinet, and reinforcing some of his positions on various issues of interest to the ABA.
Trump, who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton when he exceeded the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election, is expected to receive as many as 306 electoral votes when the 538 members of the Electoral College convene Dec. 19. While Trump won the popular vote in states he needed to win the required electoral votes, Clinton won the overall popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes.
In a Nov. 21 video, Trump, who has vowed to cancel numerous executive orders issued by President Obama, said his transition team is determining what executive actions he can take as soon as he is inaugurated on Jan. 20. In addition, he said he would take the first step toward withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, address restrictions on the production of American energy, and direct the Department of Labor to investigate visa violations.
Other plans for immediate action include instituting a five–year ban prohibiting White House and congressional officials from becoming lobbyists after leaving government service, and a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of foreign governments when they leave their positions.
Another promise is that he will institute a new requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.
The ABA is watching closely to see how the president-elect’s positions evolve on several issues of concern to the association.
Trump is expected to move quickly to nominate individuals to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and the more than 90 vacancies in the federal district and appellate courts. It is unclear what the role in the Trump administration will be for the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which currently evaluates the professional qualifications of potential nominees for the lower federal courts prior to their nominations. The ABA committee evaluates Supreme Court nominees after they have been nominated.
One of the other top areas is immigration. Executive orders that could be repealed by Trump include President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The DAPA program is currently blocked by an appeals court decision that remains in place after the U.S. Supreme Court failed to decide a challenge to the program by a 4-4 vote.
The administration plans to focus initially on deporting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes and establishing mandatory minimum sentences for those who illegally reenter the United States after previous deportation. Other steps include vetting applicants to “ensure they support America’s values, institutions and people,” and temporarily suspending immigration from “regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured.”
The ABA has been a strong supporter of the DACA and DAPA programs and has pushed for comprehensive immigration reform that provides new channels for future workers, a path to legal status for much of the undocumented population, as well as enhanced border security. The association also has spoken out against legislative proposals that would delay or halt U.S. resettlement of Syrian, Iraqi or Muslim refugees.
The ABA also is monitoring discussion regarding action the new president might take on criminal justice reform. Trump ran on a “tough on crime” agenda and has indicated that he would create a new violent crime task force and increase spending for law enforcement and federal prosecutors. The ABA supports sentencing and corrections reform legislation pending in this Congress that would narrow the scope of mandatory sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, allow judicial discretion in sentencing lower-level violent offenders, expand recidivism-reducing prison programs, and reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
Decisions regarding Cabinet positions are also being made during the transition. One of the first announcements was the Nov. 18 choice of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for U.S. attorney general. Other choices so far are Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, retired Gen. Michael Flynn for national security adviser, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to be U.N. ambassador, Betsy DeVos for education secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for secretary of Health and Human Services, and Elaine Chao for secretary of Transportation.