Much is being written about what the Trump administration has accomplished in its first 100 days, but one achievement has been largely overlooked: its efforts to restore us to being a nation based on the rule of law. That is just as important as the many other tasks that the administration has undertaken.
One of the president’s most sacred duties under the Constitution in Art. II, Sec. 3 is to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” That was not a duty that the Obama administration seemed to take seriously, particularly when it came to enforcing our federal immigration laws.
The Obama administration claimed it was using “prosecutorial discretion” to justify providing administrative amnesty, work permits, and other government benefits to illegal aliens in direct conflict with applicable law and the administration’s obligation to detain, prosecute and deport those who violated our federal immigration statutes and regulations.
The Obama administration also refused (under the guise of prosecutorial discretion) to enforce certain federal drug laws on marijuana and other laws it did not like, such as a provision of the National Voter Registration Act that requires election officials to maintain accurate voter rolls. President Obama acted as if he had a veto power over statutes that were already the law of the land.
President Donald Trump has begun the difficult task of reversing his predecessor’s expansive and likely unconstitutional actions and restoring the rule of law, starting with his pick of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Getting that done within the first 100 days and putting a conservative on the Court who has a demonstrated record of applying the Constitution and federal law as written is an important accomplishment that has the potential to last for decades—long beyond the Trump administration.
But that’s only the beginning. With more than 100 judicial vacancies across the country, President Trump has an opportunity to transform the federal courts by nominating adherents to the rule of law who will counterbalance some of Obama’s most activist liberal judges, such as those who have ruled against Trump’s executive orders on sanctuary cities and travel from terrorist safe havens in Africa and the Middle East.
Another major accomplishment is President Trump’s unlocking the handcuffs placed on all of our immigration officials by the Obama administration, from the Border Patrol to Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees. Trump has kept his campaign promise to start enforcing our immigration laws. We can already see the results in the substantial decrease in illegal border crossings and the increase in deportations and detentions of illegal aliens – individuals who the prior administration encouraged to violate our laws as Americans watched in dismay.
The public knew that they would not get the same consideration if they broke the law. That was just another sign to them of the breakdown of the fundamental principle upon which this nation is based – equal treatment under the law – and another reason why they supported Trump.
President Trump has also taken substantial steps in his first 100 days to roll back one of the biggest threats to our liberty and the separation of powers principles that are fundamental to preserving our republic: the administrative state. Our nation’s founders never envisioned this massive fourth branch of government. Americans are drowning in burdensome regulations issued by unaccountable federal bureaucrats that are stifling our economy, taking away our rights, and subjecting us to possible civil and criminal punishment, often for rules that are unknown to the average American.
Trump signed an executive order within a month of his inauguration requiring every federal agency to eliminate costly and unnecessary regulations. He signed another executive order requiring federal agencies to throw out two regulations for every new one they issue. This is one of the first steps taken in recent memory to start reducing the thousands of regulations that clog our legal (and economic) system.
One of President Trump’s other accomplishments is selecting a principled law-and-order attorney general to be our nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Jeff Sessions has already started the difficult task of trying to reinvigorate the Justice Department. From telling federal prosecutors to prioritize the prosecution of smugglers and traffickers who have been flooding the country with illegal aliens, to going after gang members and those who aid and assist illegal immigration, Sessions is restoring the rule of law and the proper role of the Justice Department in the administration of justice.
Through Jeff Sessions, President Trump is also putting a stop to the prior administration’s dangerous war on law enforcement. Sessions has ordered a review of all of the consent agreements imposed by the Obama administration on police departments nationwide to ensure that they actually support the important work of law enforcement.
Many of these agreements were unsupported by evidence of actual wrongdoing and were used for social engineering purposes by political appointees. Some of these consent decrees may be contributing to the recent steep increases in crime in cities that are subject to them -- increases that may be due to the unwarranted restraints, requirements, and disincentives imposed on local police officers.
President Trump has taken substantial steps in his first 100 days to begin the process of restoring the rule of law, the unbiased and nonpartisan administration of justice, and the lifting of unneeded and onerous regulations that shackle the American people. Any objective observer (and American patriot) would call that a success.
Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and former Justice Department official. He is coauthor of “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk”.
Elizabeth Slattery is a legal fellow in the Heritage Foundation's Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.