Even as Trump and his lawyers are seeking to expand the limits of the president’s authority in the face of the Russia probe, there can be no doubt about one fact: To borrow a phrase from Abraham Lincoln, as the 45th President of the United States, Trump is “clothed in immense power”.
According to WhiteHouse.gov, the power of the Executive Branch (one of the three branches of the US government), is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as Head of State and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The president is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress and, to that end, appoints the heads of the federal agencies, including the cabinet, according to the website.
Executive orders, presidential memoranda and proclamations
But the US president need not wait for Congress to take action. He also has the power of the presidential pen, through which he can affect change through executive orders, presidential memorandums and proclamations.
An executive order is a legally-binding directive issued by the president to government officials and agencies which cannot be overturned by Congress, according to a report in Sky News. But executive orders are subject to judicial review.
In January 2017, Trump famously signed an executive order banning refugees from war-torn Syria indefinitely, suspending the broader US refugee admissions programme for 120 days, and halting all visa applications from countries deemed a terrorist threat — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — for 30 days.
Presidential scholar Phillip Cooper, in his book By Order of the President: The Use and Abuse of Executive Direct Action, has described presidential memoranda as “executive orders by a another name”, according to a report in USA Today. However, there are also key differences between executive orders and memoranda: Executive orders are numbered; memoranda are not.
Memoranda are always published in the federal register after proclamations and executive orders. And under Executive Order 11030, signed by President Kennedy in 1962, an executive order must contain a “citation of authority,” saying what law it’s based on while memoranda have no such requirement, according to the report.
Presidential proclamations are the oldest form of presidential directive and the most sweeping. They’re often directed at citizens — not just government officials — and may call on them to take a specific action, according to the USA Today report.
In April 2018, Trump signed a proclamation directing the deployment of the National Guard to the US-Mexico border to fight illegal immigration. “The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people,” Trump wrote in a memo authorising the move, adding that his administration had “no choice but to act.” The power of the pardon is granted to the US president under Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution.