President Trump is wasting no time wielding his presidential pen. Here’s what you should know about executive orders.

WASHINGTON — The first two times President Trump imposed a travel ban, he used an executive order. The third time, he wrote it as a proclamation.

He’s signed 48 executive orders, but also dozens of presidential memoranda, which have been called “executive orders by another name.” Once, he used a memorandum to change an executive order.

And he’s created a brand new form of directive known as a national security presidential memorandum.

All modern presidents have used these tools to manage the executive branch and set policy. But as Congress has become more deadlocked, presidents are increasingly turning to executive action as a substitute for legislation. 

The prolific and controversial use of executive action under presidents Obama and Trump has drawn greater scrutiny to the form and format — not to mention the content — of various presidential directives.

So what’s the difference? Increasingly, there isn’t much of one. 

“They are kind of fuzzy, because there’s a ton of overlap in their use. They’re not defined by statute, but they’re various tools in a toolbox for a president to use,” said Andrew Wright, a professor at the Savannah Law School who worked on executive orders as an associate counsel in the Obama White House.

“For the most part, the vehicles — a proclamation, executive order, presidential memorandum, national security directive or even in a signing statement — are not nearly as important as the claims they’re making.”

But there are some subtle differences that can help make sense of what a president is trying to accomplish with his various executive actions.


Proclamations are the oldest form of presidential…