Just moments after President Trump took the oath of office Friday, the official White House website was transformed into a set of policy pledges — and absence of them — that offered the broad contours of the Trump administration’s top priorities, including fierce support for law enforcement and gun owners’ rights to defend themselves, the disappearance of the outgoing White House’s policy page on climate change and a notable lack of any directives involving former president Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Otherwise, Trump’s first day as the nation’s chief executive was largely ceremonial. The president took several executive actions after he was sworn in at noon, the most notable being to overturn a recent mortgage-fee reduction — geared at helping first-time and low-income home buyers — that Obama announced last week and that called for the Federal Housing Administration to cut its annual borrowing fee by a quarter of a percentage point.
The issues page of Trump’s White House offered no new plans or policies but rather a rehash of many of his most prominent campaign promises — a signal to the nation that Trump, more pragmatic than ideological, plans to implement at least the key guideposts of his campaign vision.
“Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter,” read the law and order section, which calls for “more law enforcement” and “more effective policing.” “Our job is to make life more comfortable for parents who want their kids to be able to walk the streets safely. Or the senior citizen waiting for a bus. Or the young child walking home from school.”
The new White House website updated almost simultaneously as Trump retreated inside the Capitol to sign a series of largely perfunctory executive actions, including a waiver for retired Gen. James Mattis to lead the Defense Department, despite having only been retired for three years. Without the waiver, federal law would have prohibited Mattis from serving as defense secretary until he had been retired from military service for at least seven years.
Trump’s official website differed in both style and tone from that of his predecessor. The site repeatedly referred to the former businessman as “Mr. Trump,” not “President Trump,” whereas Obama went by “President Obama” on his administration’s website. (Vice President Pence is referred to by his office, rather than as “Mr. Pence”). And Trump’s biographical page devoted significant space to boasting about his electoral win — from the 17 Republican primary rivals he vanquished to what he called his “truly national victory and a historic movement.”
Strikingly absent from the six issues the website highlighted — and from his speech Friday — was anything on repealing or replacing Obamacare. The issue was a defining feature of his campaign, and aides have signaled he may begin the process of undoing the law in a series of executive actions he hopes to sign in the early days of his presidency.
Nor did Trump mention health care among a set of goals he articulated in his inaugural speech’s pledge to end what he termed “American carnage” and improve the fabric of life for the nation’s citizens. The closest he came was to include among his scientific aspirations “to free the Earth from the miseries of disease.”
During his campaign and afterward, Trump has pledged that fundamental changes to the health-care system would be a first priority. In a speech outside Philadelphia six days before the November election, Trump vowed to abolish the Affordable Care Act before he was sworn in. “Have to do it,” he said. “I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace.”
Last week, both chambers of Congress approved a budget resolution that was the first legislative step toward repealing the 2010 law, which was the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s health policies. But health care was not among a half-dozen issue areas listed on the new WhiteHouse.gov website that debuted shortly after noon on Friday.
The climate change web page that existed under Obama was not replaced on the Trump site, with scant mention of climate change under the new president’s energy plan. Also gone or not immediately replaced were the web pages the previous administration had devoted to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals; people with disabilities; and civil rights more generally.
Trump’s entire campaign was largely a repudiation of Obama, and a new Republican administration is unlikely to have the same set of issues and priorities as an outgoing Democratic one. But the missing issue pages were particularly alarming to Democrats and activists, especially after a vitriolic campaign in which Trump drew criticism for seeming to mock a disabled reporter and being insensitive to the needs and rights of minority communities.
The Trump administration did not respond to requests for comment on the missing issue pages.
On energy, Trump vowed to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies” such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule. The first represents a variety of efforts Obama had pursued to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions while the second is a rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect not only the largest waterways but smaller tributaries that others believe should fall under the jurisdiction of states rather than the federal government.
“He is dedicated to enforcing our border laws, ending sanctuary cities, and stemming the tide of lawlessness associated with illegal immigration,” read part of the immigration section.
The new administration’s language echoed Trump’s tough rhetoric on the campaign trail, including his promises to strengthen the law enforcement community, crack down on he views as a broad range of trade violations and potentially forge alliances with countries long considered dangerous rivals, like Russia.
“Finally, in pursuing a foreign policy based on American interests, we will embrace diplomacy,” read part of Trump’s policy vision. “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies.”
Melania Trump, the first lady, also received a biographical overhaul. Her web page featured a black and white glamour shot of her, and touted her QVC jewelry line and modeling career, describing the many high fashion photographers with whom she has worked and the glossy magazines for which she has posed (Vogue and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, among others).
The first lady’s biography also correctly stated that she began college at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, her home country, but never graduated — a fact that was misstated during the campaign.
Only at the very end of her page did Melania offer a glimpse of the sort of first lady she might be: “Mrs. Trump cares deeply about issues impacting women and children,” read the biography, “and she has focused her platform as First Lady on the problem of cyber bullying among our youth.”