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What Trump can and can't do on Day 1 — providing he wins reelection


Now, if he wins in November, former President Trump pledges on his first day in office to rip up President Biden's policies on everything from energy to climate to immigration. Some of that can be taken care of with the stroke of a pen. Other plans would be harder. NPR's Franco Ordoñez has the story of what Trump can and can't do on day one.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: President Donald J. Trump.


LEE GREENWOOD: (Singing) And I'm proud to be an American...

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Over the last couple of weeks, former President Donald Trump has been outlining his agenda for his first day back at the White House if he wins, like he did this weekend in New Jersey.


DONALD TRUMP: On day one, I will sign a new executive order to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity.

ORDOÑEZ: In Michigan, Trump promised to return to where he left off at the end of his first term.


TRUMP: On day one, we will throw out Bidenomics, and we will reinstate a thing called MAGAnomics.

ORDOÑEZ: In Wisconsin, he said he'd go even further.


TRUMP: On day one of the Trump presidency, I'm restoring the travel ban, suspending refugee admissions...


TRUMP: ...And keeping terrorists the hell out of our country, like I had it before.

ORDOÑEZ: Trump isn't the first candidate to make big commitments for day one, but his promises have drawn more scrutiny because of his history in the office.

LEON FRESCO: The other thing that Trump has is four years of grizzled experience in finding out where all of the hot stoves were.

ORDOÑEZ: Leon Fresco, who served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, says Trump and his team know the system. They're unafraid to fight in court, including the Supreme Court. They lost a lot but won enough.

FRESCO: It took them two years to figure out how to do a travel ban. But once they did it and they realized that all they had to do was make it neutral sounding, then they started doing travel bans for all kinds of people.

ORDOÑEZ: Of course, Trump and his team are not the only ones preparing. Lee Gelernt of the ACLU argued many of the highest-profile cases against the Trump administration. He has no doubt that Trump will try to enact what he described as draconian immigration policies.

LEE GELERNT: We will be ready from day one, and I expect that there will be constant battles.

ORDOÑEZ: Trump and his allies have already been working for months drafting a list of executive actions they plan to have prepared for day one.

ANDREW RUDALEVIGE: I've heard the sort of the Trump circle talking about - is the 1798 Alien Enemies Act.

ORDOÑEZ: Andrew Rudalevige is a professor at Bowdoin College. He says Trump and his team are looking for creative ways to bypass Congress, combing through decades- and sometimes centuries-old laws to see if they can be reinterpreted to fit their goals.

RUDALEVIGE: Effectively, if you can't get new laws passed, then your temptation will be to find new meanings in old laws, and there's a lot of old laws out there.

ORDOÑEZ: Such plans have grabbed the attention of presidential scholars, like Barbara Perry from the University of Virginia's Miller Center, who see an authoritarian vision in Trump's plans to expand presidential powers.

BARBARA PERRY: And given that he doesn't seem to mind guardrails - that is, he doesn't follow guardrails - I would think that he'd have more of a chance than any president up to now to do the things he says he wants to do.

ORDOÑEZ: This time, Trump and his allies say they'll be more ready to fight on day one.


TRUMP: Like those patriots before us, we will not bend. We will not break. We will not yield. We will never give in. We will never give up. And we will never, ever, ever back down.

ORDOÑEZ: It's that message that he hopes appeals to voters because he's got to win in November before he can take up that fight on day one.

Franco Ordoñez, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUALIZM'S "WALK MAN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.