Two photos posted online by a supporter of the Trump administration offered a unique, if perhaps purposefully staged, window into the White House chief strategist’s priorities and worldview.
In a visit to the White House for Israeli Independence Day Tuesday, the politically conservative rabbi Shmuley Boteach took two pictures in front of what appears to be an administration-wide checklist in Steve Bannon’s office. Boteach later posted them on Twitter.
— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) May 2, 2017
— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) May 2, 2017
Interestingly, Bannon has checkmarks beside agenda items that are anything but accomplished.
“Cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities,” a pledge laid out in an expansive immigration-related executive order on Jan. 25, for example, was temporarily blocked by the North California U.S. District Court.
The government was unsuccessful in arguing that the executive order created no new legal authority and instead simply exercised the President’s “bully pulpit.” Judge William Orrick III pointed to the attorney general’s own public statements to poke holes in that interpretation.
Other checked-off whiteboard items were similarly issued as executive orders and then blocked by courts, citing the administration’s public statements: “suspend immigration from terror-prone regions,” “suspend the Syrian refugee program” and others. Indeed, Bannon’s checks may simply indicate that the administration has taken action on the agenda items, not that it has achieved them.
Some of the agenda items have seen some progress, especially those focused on deputizing local law enforcement to assist with the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to TPM’s questions about the bullet point related to the agency.
The Secure Communities program, under which local law enforcement processed fingerprints for ICE, was used by both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations until Obama replaced it with a more limited version in 2014.
Trump re-instituted the original version with his Jan. 25 executive order.
The same order instructed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to work with local law enforcement to streamline voluntary cooperation between them and federal immigration authorities under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Any check mark from Bannon on that point isn’t visible in Boteach’s photos.
“ICE approved eight new 287(g) applications in February and approved 18 more in April,” the agency said in an email to TPM. “Applications are continuously accepted on a rolling basis and are reviewed by a board comprised of representatives from various agency program offices.”
He did check off “triple the number of ICE agents,” announced in the same executive order. In reality, actually hiring 10,000 highly competent immigration agents on short notice has proven challenging, as CNN reported in early March.
The agency told TPM that it is “working on implementing a plan to hire the additional 10,000 employees mandated in the executive order,” but did not specify how many new agents had been hired.
“Issue detainers for all illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime, and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings,” also checked, was embarked upon in the same order. It specified not only that convicted criminals — of any offense — are prioritized for deportation, but also individuals “charged with any criminal offense,” those who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense” and even individuals who in the judgement of an immigration officer “otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
“Build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it,” listed midway down Bannon’s board, is still just a glint in the President’s eye.
To the left of the top White House adviser, the administration’s “Pledges on Tax Reform” begin with a “10% repatriation tax” — a discount, to lure corporate profit back from overseas — followed by “lower the corporate tax rate to 15%,” “eliminate the estate tax,” “eliminate the carried interest loophole,” and other eliminations and pledges just out of sight, blocked by Bannon’s head.
The White House released a one-page summary of a plan incorporating these points in time for Trump’s 100th day in office. On Bannon’s board, as in the Republican Congress, they remain unchecked.
This post has been updated.