Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Issuing Which Unilateral Order?

Thu, August 29, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Omni, Executive Room


What explains the selection of presidential directives? Under what conditions do presidents issue an executive order, a presidential memorandum, or an executive proclamation? Consider Trump’s directives on restricting entry into the United States. The initial executive action was an executive order. Facing various legal challenges, he then revised the administration’s policy with a subsequent executive order and, finally, with a proclamation. Do presidents name executive directives haphazardly, or are there some systematic patterns to the process of selecting the unilateral directive to implement executive action? While recent studies on the unilateral presidency have provided considerable insights especially into the level of unilateral activity, few works deal directly with the process by which presidents issue an executive order vs. a memorandum vs. a proclamation. Using a dataset of unilateral orders from FDR to Trump, we examine presidential decision-making with respect to different unilateral orders. In addition, we also assess the relative tradeoffs in using one form of executive directives versus another. Our results have implications for studies on the unilateral presidency and the broader literature on presidential power.