Only One President Did Not Sign Any Exec Orders

by Bronwyn Isaac
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It's been less than two weeks since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the president of the United States. He has already gone to great measures to enact his policies by swiftly signing executive orders. But how does this pattern compare to history? Were there any presidents who didn't sign executive orders?

In the past week and a half alone, Trump has signed seven executive orders. Perhaps the most controversial is his executive order on immigration, which places specific restrictions on seven Muslim-majority countries and an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. The order also suspends refugee admission for 120 days. In response to this order, there have been protests across the country. On Monday night, the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, was fired because she stated she would not defend the immigration restrictions. The White House said in a statement that Yates "has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States."

While signing executive orders is a given for most presidents, the fact that Trump has a Republican Congress on his side creates a stark contrast with the environment surrounding Obama's executive orders. Obama signed some 277 executive orders over the span of eight years in office.

This brings us back to our initial question: Are there, or have there been, any presidents who didn't sign executive orders? Technically, yes, but it's extremely uncommon.

In the history of our 45 U.S. presidents, now including Trump, the ninth president of the United States, William Henry Harrison, was the only president who didn't sign any executive orders. This may be partially (mostly) due to the fact that Harrison died of pneumonia after just one month in office, making his the shortest presidential run in history.

Even so, Trump, who has been president less than half as long as Harrison, has already managed to sign an executive order that green lights the Dakota Access Pipeline, reinstated the global gag rule, and, as mentioned above, levied some of the strictest and most controversial immigration restrictions in recent political memory.

For those participating in the thousands of anti-Trump protests across the country, this swift flurry of executive orders serves as an urgent call to political action.

Who knows exactly what will come next from Trump and specifically in regards to his executive orders. He may ultimately follow in the footsteps of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who signed a record-high 3,721 executive orders.