I was just wondering if sitting US presidents can repeal their own executive order?

For example, a president issued an executive order (forget the content). Can the same president revoke that executive order say after 2 days?

5 Answers 5


A president can issue an executive order on any subject at any time. If the executive order replaces a previous order, then the previous order has been "repealed". A trivial example would be congress passes a law to create a seal for an agency, the president (under that law) says the background would be green. Sometime later, he issues a new order that the background would be red. The previous order has been "repealed".

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    So, could this seal, if it was - in a third executive order - changed back to green, be said to have been retealed? scnr Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 10:32
  • @AlexanderKosubek scnr?
    – Nzall
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 12:45
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    @Nzall "Sorry, could not resist", I believe.
    – Pants
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 14:19
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    @AlexanderKosubek Only if the president's orders were under color of law. Commented May 2, 2019 at 16:23

A sitting US president can repeal any executive order, theirs or their predecessors.

  • Out of curiosity can they some how do one for a future president?
    – Celeritas
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 9:32
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    @Celeritas how would you do that? And why? As the future president can override it anyway...
    – jwenting
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 10:17
  • @Celeritas: I don't believe there's any means for a US President acting alone to "entrench" an executive order, meaning that it would require any more than another executive order to overturn it. Of course if a President acted with Congress to pass legislation, then that legislation would require more than a future executive order to repeal. Or even more strongly, amend the Constitution. A future President could still issue an executive order to break the law or act unconstitutionally, but in theory would lose eventually in the courts, and civil servants might refuse to obey it anyway. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 12:27
  • I say "in theory" because President Nixon did actually say, admittedly after he resigned from office in disgrace, that "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal". Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 12:32
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    @Celeritas What a President can do is act so overwhelmingly in the interest of the US with such obvious virtue that eventually his mere warnings and practices hold precedent. Think George Washington and the two term limit, which was so obvious that it became an amendment. Note that the guy who broke that practice gave us Japanese Internment Camps. And the couple that tried to backdoor into breaking it, the Clintons, would surely have left something worse.
    – user9790
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 12:38

Its helpful to think of Executive Orders as similar to directives issued by the CEO of a company. CEO's aren't supposed to issue orders that are contrary to the law and often the directives are at a relatively high level (i.e. lots of details are to be determined). An example, the CEO says "let's reorganize the company by March 31 to better serve our customers". She might have an idea about who is going to lead that effort, but doesn't explicitly spell out every new role, title, responsibility, etc. Others will do that.

A year later, the CEO could decide the reorganization isn't working and issue a directive to do something completely different.

Similarly Executive Orders aren't creating new laws. Even Trump's first week Executive Order to build the wall at the US/Mexican border was mostly "directional". Under a 2006 law that authorized 700 miles of barrier, only 649 had been built. So in part the order said, build the remaining 51miles (already a law) and then start planning for an additional amount of wall (no law is required to start a planning process). Next month he could just as easily issue an order saying "defer plans to build additional wall until I say so" (or issue another Executive Order).

This article seemed to do a pretty good job of explaining things.

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    Saying that 642 miles of wall were built is a bit misleading. The wall was originally supposed to consist of two separate pieces, one to stop vehicles and another to stop people with space between them. Very little of the finished product has two layers. Most of the distance is one or the other, where it is supposed to be both. So they actually need more than seven hundred miles of fencing added just to finish the original plan. And some of the existing fencing is built incorrectly. You can see it switch between pedestrian and vehicle barriers which should be separate.
    – Brythan
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 16:06
  • @Brythan - all fair points, though the point of the example was to indicate that there was existing legal authority to proceed with another 58 miles of barrier and that the Executive Order wasn't creating new law. I've edited my answer to generalize the "700 miles of wall" to "700 miles of barrier". Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 16:09
  • I would agree--I'm just pointing out that there isn't just 58 miles of barriers to finish. There's actually over 700 miles just in the original plan. It isn't almost completed; it's closer to half.
    – Brythan
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 16:13
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    @Brythan - given the history of the 2006 act and its amendment made in a later 2007 budget (see [link]bit.ly/1XreKWg), there is clearly some controversy over whether the part that was done was "finished" or not. Since the amendment gave the Border Patrol the discretion as to what kind of barrier to put in, what's there could be (by Border Patrol standards) be deemed to be done. But again, the legal foundation to build a wall was not created by President Trump. He simply recommitted to existing plans and asked for new plans to be developed. Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 16:34

This has happened with Trump's recent executive order 13780

Sec. 13. Revocation. Executive Order 13769 of January 27, 2017, is revoked as of the effective date of this order.


An executive order can cover any matter. This would include the repeal of previous executive orders (theirs or otherwise).

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