Donald Trump’s First Act On Minute 1 Of Day 1 As President
Donald Trump proclaimed many tasks that he intended to prioritize on day 1 of his presidency. Below is a list from the campaign:
- Order wall construction
- Introduce legislation to amend the Constitution to impose term limits
- Ban government officials from becoming lobbyists for 5 years after they leave government employment
- Renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw U.S. from the agreement
- Formally withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership
- Fast rack the Keystone pipeline and other energy projects
- Increase drilling to oil and natural gas
- Cancel U.S. payments to UN climate change programs and redirect money to water and environment U.S. infrastructure
- Suspend immigration from areas where terror vetting is difficult
- Freeze federal job hiring to federal payrolls
Indeed, that is a lot of stuff, quite an ambitious day 1 to be sure. He did not do any of it, but there is something he did do just one minute after he was inaugurated at 12:01 PM on January 20, 2017. He did this with no announcement, no press, not even a post on Twitter. But fist a little background is necessary to establish the magnitude of Trump’s first act as President and why it is so troubling.
In 2011, the Texas legislature passed a voting rights law known as SB 14, imposing new stricter identification requirements on voters. On September 17, 2013, the Brennan Center, Lawyers’ Committee, and co-counsel filed suit in federal court challenging SB 14, Texas’s strict photo voter ID law, on behalf of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC). Their asserted that the law unjustly targeted minority Americans unfairly preventing them to vote and violating their civil rights. Under President Obama, the Department of Justice had previously argued on behalf of the plaintiff that the law intentionally discriminated against minority voters.
In July, the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans ruled that the law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it disproportionately affected minorities. Judge Nelva Ramos wrote a scathing opinion of the law writing, “The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”
The plaintiffs challenging SB 14 also argue that the law was passed with the intent to discriminate against African Americans and Latinos in Texas. The Fifth Circuit sent this portion of the case back to the district court for further review. Briefing on this claim occurred in November and December, with oral arguments scheduled for January 24, 2017.
In spite of all of his lofty goals he set to accomplish on day 1, the first action as President of the United States was something he never once spoke of or alluded to: to postpone the January 24, 2017 hearing set for this Tuesday. The reasons given in the petition for postponement was the transition of one administration and its DOJ to a new one under Trump. However, what an administration does in its first day of power says a lot about its priorities.
The postponement was granted and the hearing is now set for February 28, 2017, plenty of time for Jeff Sessions confirmed as Attorney General, a candidate whose confirmation most believe is virtually inevitable. Jeff Sessions has in the past been denied a federal judgeship over allegations he called a black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for black clients was a race traitor, joked that the only issue he had with the Ku Klux Klan was their drug use, and referred to civil rights groups (NAACP and ACLU) as “un-American” organizations trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”
Given Sessions’ controversial past on matters of race and the prioritizing of the Trump administration to postpone the Tuesday hearing until after his likely confirmation, it seems that the writing is on the wall that the law that was determined by a U.S. federal court of appeals to be unconstitutional and a flagrant violation of the Voting Rights Act, is likely to stand.
Chad Dunn, attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, expects Trump’s Department of Justice to reverse course. “I figure the government will spend the next 30 days figuring out how to change its mind,” he said, adding that now he expects the DOJ to argue on behalf of the state of Texas, which has held that there was no intent to discriminate against minorities. “The facts did not change – just the personnel.”