Over the course of its long four years in power, the Trump administration presented extraordinary challenges to the rule of law and sound policymaking. There certainly was a lot to do — and we’ve gotten a lot done.
Here are 45 ways we disrupted the 45th president’s Executive Branch corruption:
1. Ken Cuccinelli was unlawfully appointed by Trump to lead the nation’s immigration agency and used his post to strip protections from asylum seekers.
In a landmark victory, we sued and won, unwinding his harmful directives and giving asylum seekers a fairer shot.
The Trump administration tried to do an end-run around federal vacancies law to install the xenophobic Cuccinelli (who once compared immigrants to pests) at USCIS. On behalf of RAICES and seven asylum seekers, we sued with CLINIC and Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP. A federal court ruled that Cuccinelli was illegally appointed and lacked authority to perform the functions of the USCIS director. The court therefore invalidated two harmful immigration directives that Cuccinelli had issued and gave our clients a second chance.
The court’s decision was the first to hold that a Trump administration official was unlawfully appointed, setting the stage for numerous other successful challenges.
2. Trump’s Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke unlawfully tapped an outside advisory group stacked with hunting and gun advocates to advise on the trophy hunting of threatened wildlife.
So we teamed up with environmental and animal advocacy groups to bring a lawsuit challenging the misnamed ‘International Wildlife Conservation Council.’ The Council disbanded in the face of our lawsuit.
With the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Center for Biological Diversity, we were quick to pounce on the Trump administration’s use of this illegal advisory body.
First lady Melania Trump, left, with Margaret Kenyatta, Kenya’s first lady, right, pet a baby elephant the at David Sheldrick Elephant & Rhino Orphanage at Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
3. President Trump’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission unlawfully ended the collection of equal pay data. So we filed suit. And won.
Our legal victory — with the National Women’s Law Center and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement — forced collection of pay data by race, gender, and ethnicity, which will shed light on wage disparities.
You can’t fix what you can’t see, so it defied reason that the Trump administration would halt a requirement that large employers collect aggregate pay data based on sex, race, ethnicity. A court agreed and found the Trump administration’s justification for halting the pay data collection “misdirected, inaccurate, and ultimately unpersuasive.” But that’s not all! Trump’s EEOC delayed compliance with the court’s order (and that’s a no-no), so we took them back to court.
In the end, as a result of our case, 90% of companies submitted two years of pay data to the EEOC.
4. The Trump administration inexplicably cut grant funding for the $100 million, evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.
We brought multiple successful lawsuits to reinstate the grants and exposed the folks behind the scenes who tried to transform the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program into an abstinence-only initiative.
The Trump administration had an ugly pattern of discarding evidence-based strategies. We stepped in when funding was cut from over 80 TPP programs in the middle of their 5-year grant cycle. We fought back on behalf of King County, Washington, the City of Baltimore, and Healthy Teen Network and secured complete victory. A federal court ruled HHS’s termination of the TPP Program violated federal law. And when the Trump administration again tried to push its ideological, abstinence-only agenda on teens, we went back to court on behalf of Multnomah County, Oregon. Once again, a federal court ruled against the Trump administration and stopped its unlawful scheme.
Power to Decide awarded Democracy Forward, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Public Citizen its Sarah S. Brown award for successfully preventing the Trump administration from abolishing the TPP Program.
5. Despite the mounting toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration’s Labor Department continued to stall progress on a long-pending workplace standard that would protect frontline healthcare workers from infectious diseases.
We sued with four labor unions — AFT, AFSCME, WSNA, and UNAC — to challenge this dangerous disregard for America’s frontline workers. The Biden-Harris administration has since told a federal court, in response to our suit, that it will now prioritize the standard.
There is currently no occupational safety and health standard on the books designed to protect healthcare workers from infectious diseases spread by contact, droplets, or the air — like influenza, COVID-19, Ebola, and more.
The Trump administration’s cruel decision to unreasonably delay progress on this standard left healthcare workers dangerously unprotected — in the face of a once-in-a-generation pandemic.
6. Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, illegally used his private email account to discuss government business and, among other things, set up a meeting with a white supremacist.
We uncovered his unlawful use of private email and forced the Trump administration to admit as much in court — and conduct a search of his private email accounts.
But it’s not clear all of Ross’s private emails related to government business made it back to the government for preservation. So, we shared what we know with the National Archives to aid its investigation into Wilbur Ross’s improper conduct.
7. Throughout his presidency, President Trump tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, making health insurance more expensive and inaccessible.
We took Trump to court on behalf of five major U.S. cities to prevent him from deliberately undermining millions of Americans’ access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. And we won.
President Trump followed through on his threats to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with, among other things, his Department of Health and Human Services’ 2019 rule governing the ACA’s implementation. The rule weakens the ACA’s exchanges, drives up premiums, and forces out health insurers, ultimately increasing the number of uninsured and underinsured Americans. We filed suit on behalf of five major cities — Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Cincinnati, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — and two citizens from Corvallis, Oregon.
A federal court ruled the Trump administration undermined the ACA and struck down four Trump-era policies that undercut the ACA’s success in providing affordable, high-quality health insurance to millions of Americans.
8. Trump’s USDA head Sonny Perdue rolled back healthier school nutrition standards for 30 million children.
We sued and won, reversing the rollback and helping to ensure students across America have access to healthier school meals.
Trump’s USDA weakened whole-grain requirements and increased permissible sodium levels for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, which feed 30 million children. We won a major victory for those kids with our lawsuit on behalf of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Healthy School Food Maryland challenging the unlawful rollback.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has lunch with students in the cafeteria at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va., Monday, May 1, 2017, after he unveiled a new rule on school lunches. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
9. The Trump administration’s Labor Department rolled back a visa certification policy aimed at protecting immigrant victims of workplace abuse and crimes.
We teamed up with NOWCRJ and sued to protect the ability of immigrant victims to obtain visas to remain in the U.S. lawfully when they assist in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenders. In response to our lawsuit, the Biden-Harris administration withdrew the unlawful policy.
The Trump-era change jeopardized the safety of vulnerable workers — suffering from domestic violence, human trafficking, and labor exploitation — while protecting abusive employers. Among other things, the rollback made it more difficult for the Labor Department to certify visa applications by mandating that the Department first refer applications to criminal law enforcement for concurrence prior to certification. It also removed a requirement that visa certification decisions be made in a timely manner.
10. President Trump failed to release the legally required War Powers Transparency Report.
Faced with a lawsuit we brought on behalf of national security experts, the Trump White House reversed course and made the report available to Congress and the American people.
The public should know when presidents believe they are authorized to unleash military power overseas. The Trump White House kept the Hill and the public in the dark for over eight months. We sued on behalf of Protect Democracy and Benjamin Wittes and Scott R. Anderson of Lawfare — and forced the release of the report.
11. The Trump administration’s DHS quietly leaked private & protected info about individuals’ immigration status to right-wing media outlets like Breitbart & Fox News. We demanded an investigation.
Under President Biden, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties took a look and concluded the issues we raised “are concerning and indicate … violations.”
The Trump administration took its anti-immigrant agenda to new heights by using DHS’s Office of Public Information to help drive a false and racist narrative that immigrants are criminals. Emails we uncovered via a public records lawsuit show that DHS’s press team chided a reporter for not highlighting an alleged criminal’s refugee status and routinely volunteered the immigration status of individuals that were the subject of negative news stories.
DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties told us that these facts “indicate possible privacy and civil rights violations” and that it will develop new training protocols as a result. As the saying goes, what’s done in the dark will come to light. Or perhaps: what’s done on government email will be made public.
12. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services unlawfully approved the State of Georgia’s plan to waive essential Affordable Care Act requirements and block Georgia residents’ access to HealthCare.gov.
We sued over the unlawful waiver on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast and Feminist Women’s Health Center.
In its final months in power, the Trump administration approved Georgia’s waiver request under Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act, which turns back the clock for Georgians trying to enroll in quality health care to a time when consumers were forced to navigate through private insurers, brokers, and junk plans just to get covered. Up to 100,000 Georgians stand to lose their insurance as a result of the Trump administration’s decision, which remains on the books.
13. The Trump administration unlawfully erased LGBTQ+ and Native American foster youth from vital statistics.
We brought suit with a dynamic coalition of Tribal governments, LGBTQ+ advocates, and foster youth organizations to bring these marginalized communities out of the shadows.
Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services unlawfully rescinded requirements that child welfare agencies report essential data about marginalized foster youth and parents. American Indian/Alaska Native and LGBTQ+ youth and parents all too often suffer negative treatment in the foster care system. Collecting data on their representation and outcomes in the foster care system is critical to making things better.
We filed suit with Lambda Legal and the Michigan State University College of Law’s Indian Law Clinic on behalf of the California Tribal Family Coalition, the Cherokee Nation, Yurok Tribe, Ark of Freedom Alliance, Facing Foster Care in Alaska, the Ruth Ellis Center, and True Colors, Inc.
14. One of Trump’s top officials at the Department of Justice unlawfully banned the use of a critical enforcement tool allowing polluters to pay for projects that benefit the communities they’ve harmed with illegal pollution.
On behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation, we filed suit. Our case spurred the Biden-Harris administration to withdraw the unlawful Trump policy.
In March 2020, Trump’s Assistant Attorney General for the Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division Jeffrey Bossert Clark abruptly and unlawfully banned the inclusion of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in environmental enforcement settlements. SEPs allow violators of environmental statutes to address the effects of their pollution, or to forestall future pollution, through projects that benefit affected communities.
15. The Trump administration unlawfully blocked access to the Potomac River to accommodate President Trump’s frequent trips to golf at his private Virginia club.
The Coast Guard’s unlawful restrictions blocked the public’s right to access and enjoy the Potomac River while the president golfed. We sued on behalf of the Canoe Cruisers Association and prompted the Coast Guard to lift the restrictions. To celebrate, the Canoe Cruisers Association took our team out for a victory paddle on the newly reopened public waterway!
Since 2017, our team of legal and policy experts have filed over 650 legal actions and FOIA requests across 50 agencies to expose and challenge the Trump administration’s corruption.
And we found real success in challenging many of the past administration’s dangerous, under-the-radar policies that didn’t always make the front page.
18. The Trump administration decided to take a “drill, baby, drill” mindset to unlawful lengths by creating a secret advisory group stacked with fossil fuel lobbyists to write policy that benefits the industry. We rolled up our sleeves with WORC — the landowners, ranchers, and conservationists not invited to the party — and brought a successful lawsuit that forced the Trump administration to dismantle the unlawful group and abandon its recommendations.
20. The Trump administration refused to collect data on how financial institutions lend to women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses as federal law requires. We teamed up with female small business owners in Iowa and Oregon, the California Reinvestment Coalition, and the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, who refused to stay in the dark. Our lawsuit forced the Trump administration into a court-ordered agreement to take action.
22. At the eleventh hour, the Trump administration illegally and dramatically expanded the ability of federal contractors and subcontractors to cite religious objections to justify employment decisions that discriminate against women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. So we sued on behalf of the Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., Pride at Work, and the American Federation of Teachers. The Biden-Harris administration has since told the court that it intends to propose rescinding the rule.
24. The Trump administration created an unlawful, secret policy to prevent DACA recipients from obtaining federal home loans. After our investigation showed that senior Trump officials at HUD gave misleading responses to Congress on the matter, we took the issue up with the HUD Inspector General. Secretary Carson was questioned about it at a congressional hearing with the documents our investigation revealed — he ultimately saw the light on his final day in office and reversed the policy.
17. In its final weeks, the Trump administration severely restricted immigrants’ access to justice in immigration court. We filed suit with five immigrant justice groups and sought a stay of the unlawful rule, which remains in effect. Our request for a stay is pending.
19. The day after the November election, the Trump administration proposed a sweeping rule that would automatically scrap ~18,000 HHS regulations affecting everything from healthcare and vaccination programs to baby formula and drug safety. The day before President Biden took office, Trump’s HHS finalized the plan and set off a ticking time bomb. We sued on behalf of the County of Santa Clara and a coalition of tribes, healthcare professionals, and health and food safety organizations to stave off the regulatory chaos that would result.
21. The Trump administration unlawfully refused to reopen Obamacare enrollment to allow millions of uninsured Americans affected by the pandemic to enroll in high-quality, affordable health insurance. We filed suit on behalf of the City of Chicago with the support of fourteen states and the U.S. House of Representatives. The issue was so important that in its first weeks in office the Biden-Harris administration promptly opened a special enrollment period, which has already allowed more than 200,000 Americans to get covered.
23. We’ve exposed Trump appointees across agencies, including EPA, Treasury, Education, and DHS for their cozy ties with Fox News and other conservative outlets. Our Freedom of Information Act investigation has revealed communications that may violate anti-propaganda laws prohibiting “covert propaganda,” which is created when government officials create content for publication or broadcast on private platforms without publicly disclosing their role.
25. Trump’s CFPB unlawfully created (and then operated) a Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law, which produced a 900-page final report recommending industry-friendly changes to consumer financial laws and regulations. We filed suit over the unlawful Taskforce on behalf of consumer advocates. A federal court has already rejected an attempt by the Trump administration to avoid accountability for the Taskforce.
26. Trump political appointees at NOAA may have unlawfully interfered with protections for the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale in order to facilitate seismic blasting for offshore drilling. We asked NOAA’s Scientific Integrity Committee to open an investigative inquiry, and it has. The inquiry is ongoing.
28. The Trump administration gave service providers funded by taxpayer grant money a free pass to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals seeking their services. The administration first announced it wouldn’t enforce critical nondiscrimination protections, then rescinded the protections altogether in its final days in power. We filed suit against both policies on behalf of organizations that represent the vulnerable populations directly harmed by the Trump-authorized discrimination.
30. Ken Cuccinelli — Trump’s unlawfully appointed acting USCIS Director — illegally blocked the path for immigrants with Temporary Protected Status to obtain permanent U.S. residency. On behalf of seven TPS beneficiaries and an immigrant justice group, we took the Trump administration and Cuccinelli to court (again).
32. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unlawfully formed the Commission on Unalienable Rights, a group that provided recommendations to the State Department and was stacked with members who hold positions hostile to LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights. The Commission sought to favor religious freedom over all other human rights. So we stood up for the rights of all and joined renowned international human rights orgs in a lawsuit to stop the recommendations from Pompeo’s unlawful Commission on Unalienable Rights from infecting American foreign policy.
34. The Trump administration eviscerated vital anti-redlining rules put in place to ensure banks lend and invest in low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color. We partnered with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and the California Reinvestment Coalition and filed suit to reverse Trump’s short-sighted shredding of the rules. In February, a federal court rejected the Trump administration’s parting attempt to dismiss the case.
27. Trump’s Department of Education axed protections for survivors of campus sexual assault. We exposed the Trump administration’s collaboration with mens’ rights groups and surfaced former Attorney General Bill Barr’s inflammatory assertion that: “Male students are sacrificed to the mob.”
29. The Trump administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau failed to protect millions of student borrowers by illegally allowing large corporations that service federal student loans to operate without CFPB supervision as Dodd-Frank requires. We sued to force Trump’s CFPB to meet its obligations as a federal watchdog.
31. Trump’s Interior Department secretly and unlawfully weakened critical safety requirements designed to prevent another oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. We filed a lawsuit on behalf of Healthy Gulf to seal off the oil industry’s ability to evade important safety protections.
33. Trump’s State Department made an unlawful, under-the-radar change to the agency’s definition of “public charge,” a provision in immigration law that limits who may come to the U.S. The Trump administration’s new definition deters immigrants and their families from using programs for which they’re legally eligible. We partnered with the City of Baltimore to file a lawsuit defending immigrants against the Trump administration’s xenophobic attacks.
35. Trump’s Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao refused to collect information on how often airlines lose and damage wheelchairs used by veterans and travelers with disabilities. On behalf of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, we sued to protect these travelers’ rights. In the face of our lawsuit and subsequent congressional action, the Trump administration relented and agreed to stop delaying a rule intended to make air travel safer and easier for passengers with disabilities.
36. Trump’s first Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke used nearly $40,000 in wildfire preparedness funds to pay for private helicopter rides while wildfires raged across the West Coast. If not for our public records investigation and lawsuit on behalf of the Western Values Project, the public wouldn’t have known about Zinke’s misuse of funds, and Zinke would’ve gotten away with it.
38. Trump’s Energy Department illegally allowed an air conditioner manufacturer to evade energy efficiency rules. We popped that hot air balloon with a successful lawsuit that prompted a federal court to overturn the rollback. The court said the Trump administration was determined to roll back those energy efficiency testing rules “through any means available.”
40. Trump’s USDA refused to give small farmers a fair chance to fight back against abuse by Big Agriculture. We stood up for the little guy and sued on behalf of a coalition of farmers. Our lawsuit forced the USDA to publicly state that it would revisit the Farmer Fair Practices Rules.
42. Trump’s Departments of Justice and Homeland Security issued an error-ridden, biased report that falsely linked terrorism to immigration. So we teamed up with Muslim Advocates, filed suit, and got the Trump administration to admit its report failed to “promote the perception of objectivity.”
44. Trump’s Department of Homeland Security deported hundreds of thousands of people under an unconstitutional policy permitting low-level, unappointed Customs and Border Protection employees to unilaterally deport noncitizens without a hearing or judicial review. We filed suit on behalf of a noncitizen who was unlawfully deported after being detained at O’Hare International Airport despite having been issued a visa by the State Department.
37. At the start of the Trump administration, the EPA unlawfully yanked grant funding from the Bay Journal, a regional newspaper that offered critical, factual coverage of the administration’s harmful environmental agenda. We stood up for local news with a challenge to the funding termination — and EPA reversed course and restored the funding.
39. The Trump administration unlawfully tapped three of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago associates to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs on issues of critical importance to America’s veterans. We filed suit on behalf of VoteVets and demanded accountability for the Trump administration’s unlawful reliance on the shady “Mar-a-Lago Council.”
41. Federal contractor Oracle—owned by Trump supporter Larry Ellison—challenged the Dept. of Labor’s ability to enforce anti-discrimination laws. When the Trump admin’s actions made clear that it wouldn’t adequately represent the interests of all workers, we moved alongside the NWLC, the Communications Workers of America, and United Steelworkers to intervene to uphold the agency’s authority to protect American workers from discriminatory employment practices.
43. Trump’s Interior Department plucked Stephen Wackowski from a company with an interest in oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and put him in charge of oil and gas policy in Alaska. The Interior Department’s Inspector General said there was “no doubt” a senior Trump official violated his ethics pledge. The report tracked an investigative request and supporting documents we submitted.
45. President Trump told his NY real estate cronies to create a committee that would advise the federal government on infrastructure policy. So we sued on behalf of Food & Water Watch. While Trump ultimately disbanded the committee, our lawsuit forced the White House to answer questions under oath about the scope and nature of the Infrastructure Council’s work.