Obama Is Trying Hard To Donald Trump-Proof The White House & It Might Work
As he prepares to hand off power to Donald Trump, President Obama has said he wants a smooth transition. Just a day after the election, Obama stated, “We are all rooting for his [Trump's] success in uniting and leading the country," and cited the cordial and easygoing manner in which President Bush handed over power to his administration. However, in the days since then, Obama's and Trump's administrations have sparred verbally, mostly over the issue of Russian hacking, but based on reports so far, transfer of control of federal agencies has mostly gone smoothly.
Still, Obama is certainly using his last few weeks of power to enact the last little bits he can of his agenda, making it a little harder for Trump to undo everything he's done over the past eight years. He's using the regulatory and bureaucratic power of the executive branch to set in place policies that Trump will have to expend real effort to dismantle.
Perhaps the clearest example of this was the announcement on Tuesday of permanent bans on oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, a move he made in conjunction with Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Obama's action is made through the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the president power to "withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf." It's hard to tell at this point, but there is reason to believe that Obama's action really could not be undone by President Trump, at least without some intense and difficult effort from his administration, or an act of Congress.
This is not the only environmental regulation Obama has rushed into effect shortly before leaving office. The American Action Forum, a right-leaning think tank that opposes regulations on economic efficiency grounds, identified five large-scale Obama regulations aimed at some form of conservation from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior, coming in addition to other powerful environmental regulations the Obama administration has enacted in the past year. Trump has vowed to slash Obama's environmental regulations, but it is important to note that undoing these rules will take a lot of effort and legal wrangling from his administration, especially with Trump's cabinet so new to governmental administration.
Obama is similarly using his last days to throw at least a small wrench into Trump's most controversial proposal — banning or registering Muslims who enter the United States. The Obama administration has begun dismantling the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, a Bush-era program under the Department of Homeland Security that forced people entering the United States from certain (mostly Muslim) countries to register with DHS in order to keep tabs on them. The Obama administration stopped utilizing the program in 2011, but this move is aimed at breaking down its infrastructure — making the Trump administration start from scratch if they want to start monitoring Muslims in the United States.
Of course, Trump will come into the office with all the powers Obama had as president and, therefore, the ability to repudiate most actions Obama made through the office of the executive. But by putting in these last-minute regulations, Trump's administration will have to spend much of their time trying to get back to where things were before these Obama rules, before they can even make progress enacting an agenda of their own.