If the pace of confirmations from the Senate remains historically glacial, the pace of executive orders still seems rather brisk into Donald Trump’s third week as president. The two streams crossed in the Oval Office this morning, as Jeff Sessions took the oath of office as Attorney General administered by Vice President Mike Pence. Sessions then presented Trump with three EOs for the Department of Justice for Trump’s signature:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 9, 2017
The White House had announced the EOs shortly before the ceremony with Sessions. They are the first such orders in over a week, a pace that slowed when the White House revamped the process after the “travel pause” EO fumbles. These orders all fall easily within presidential authority and the jurisdiction of the executive branch:
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was sworn in Thursday as the 84th attorney general of the United States as President Trump signed three executive actions aimed at bolstering law enforcement. …
Before Sessions’ took the oath of office from Vice President Pence, Trump used the occasion to announce a new series of executive actions, directing federal law enforcement to step up their efforts against international drug cartels, creating a national task force on violent crime and launching an effort to protect local police from violence.
“A new era of justice begins,” Trump said. “And it begins right now.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 9, 2017
Clearly, the new administration has discovered that presidential signing ceremonies make for good optics. (Apparently so does the mere presence of Jeff Sessions.) None of these EOs are terribly remarkable, and may not even require a formal EO for effectiveness. Sessions could have probably accomplished all three of these action items without them, but two of the three come straight from Trump’s campaign promises — to protect cops (“Blue Lives Matter”) and to reduce violent crime. Consider this a free media victory lap. At some point, though, the White House risks diluting the impact of these photo ops, which presumably will disappear anyway when the rest of Trump’s Cabinet is finally allowed by the Senate to start doing their jobs.
For that matter, Sessions himself echoed Trump’s campaign agenda in his short remarks after taking office.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 9, 2017
Sessions addressed one more key Trump promise — a crackdown on illegal immigration, while emphasizing support for legal entry into the US. “We need a lawful system of immigration,” Sessions declared. “That’s not wrong, that’s not immoral, that’s not indecent.” An arrest in Phoenix may have signaled the start of the shift in focus:
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, had lived in the country since she was 14. She was arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid ordered by then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at Golfland Sunsplash amusement park in Mesa, Ariz., and convicted of felony identity theft for possessing false papers.
A mother of two, she continued to live in Arizona and checked in with ICE every six months. On her scheduled meeting Wednesday morning, she arrived at the ICE field office in Phoenix surrounded by supporters. An immigration attorney later told the crowd outside that Garcia de Rayos had been arrested.
“We all knew something could be different this time with the new administration,” said Carlos Garcia, director of the immigrant advocacy group Puente Arizona. “She went in with the lawyer and didn’t come out. That was pretty much all there was.”
A protest erupted outside the office, and demonstrators tried to block ICE officials from transporting de Rayos to no avail. Get ready to see this repeated much more often over the next few years. Sessions and the White House had better get used to dealing with the optics here too, because the media is definitely going to be featuring cases like de Rayos — whose 14-year-old daughter is now separated from her.