It turns out that President Trump may not be a fan of online petitions like "Immediately Release Donald Trump's Full Tax Returns," which has over a million signatures. At least, that's what a recent announcement from his administration suggests. According to the Associated Press, the White House is temporarily shutting down its petition website that allows citizens to create and sign petitions and send them directly to the federal government.
The website, called "We The People," was launched by former President Barack Obama's administration in 2011 with a promise that any petition that received over 100,000 signatures within 30 days would receive an official response from the White House. Since Trump took office in January, 17 petitions — including, "Do Not Repeal Net Neutrality" and "Divest or put in a blind trust all of the President's business and financial assets," — have met this criteria; however, the president has not responded to a single one. Many of the site's most popular petitions, like the ones mentioned above, are critical of the president and his policies.
According to the White House, "We the People" and all of its existing petitions, will return "as a new website" in late January. The petitions that have met the required number of signatures will then start receiving responses. The White House claims that this change will save taxpayers "$1.3 million annually."
This isn't the first time President Trump has generated controversy by removing his predecessor's content from online. When Trump first took office in January, the White House reportedly removed all references to “climate change” and deleted a page on LGBTQ rights from the official White House website. A PolitiFact investigation, however, found that this website scrubbing was nothing out of the ordinary in the whitehouse.gov transition process.
But the scrubbing has reportedly continued well past the transition. In November, the Washington Post released a report claiming that Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been "systematically dismantling" all references to climate change on government websites. According to the report, the EPA's official website is down for maintenance so that it can "reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt."
The public can still access an archived version of the EPA's website. But the archived version, according to the Post, is missing a number of educational resources and PDFs about climate change. The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which helped with the analysis, has reported that at least 200 pages are now missing from the Obama-era site.
Throughout his first year in office, President Trump has made it pretty clear that one of the main goals of his presidency is to undo many of Obama's policies and achievements. CNN's Anderson Cooper even went so far as to say that Trump is committed to "obliterating" Obama's legacy.
Just a handful of examples of this from the year include the Trump administration trying (and ultimately failing) to repeal Obamacare, revoking the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, and ordering an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for young undocumented immigrants. In fact, Trump even joked at the annual White House Thanksgiving turkey pardoning that, if he could, he would kill the turkeys that were pardoned by Obama last year.
The White House's latest decision to, at least temporarily, shut down Obama's online petition website is just the latest example of Trump shutting down programs established by his predecessor. Given the amount of outrage about this decision that has been expressed online, the Trump administration might have a lot more petitions that are critical of Trump to respond to in January.