Juan Cole says that executive orders signed this past week by Trump appear in the main to have been drafted by Steve Bannon.

Does Bannon draft the executive orders? If not him, then who?

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    @phoog agreed. I think a major concern for everyone (whether for or against Trump) is is seemingly stubborn non-acceptance of the fact that we have a legal system and that his declarations ultimately need to be legal.
    – user1530
    Jan 30, 2017 at 4:04
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    I removed the possibly hyperbolic claim about Steve Bannon's political positions, because it isn't relevant for answering the question.
    – Philipp
    Jan 30, 2017 at 14:36
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    @Philipp Ah, I was wondering why the question had been downvoted so heavily.
    – deworde
    Jan 30, 2017 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


Executive orders are almost always drafted by someone other than the President (at least in the last hundred years or so), although the President might provide an initial outline and might have editorial input into a near final draft.

Sometimes the President initiates them and explains to some aide what he wants and the aide in association with other aides drafts it, and sometimes an agency that needs an executive order initiates the drafting of it it and then presents it to the President for approval with an explanation.

Ordinarily the person who drafts a document like that would either be trained as an attorney, or would be a seasoned bureaucrat knowledgable in the stylistic and technical elements that must be included in one.

The trouble is that despite the fact that executive orders are almost always ghostwritten, it is common practice for the true drafting author to not be acknowledged (unlike the annotation of initials of a true author that often appears on a business letter).

So, any determination of who really drafted an executive order has to be based upon surmise from drafting style, from the roster of aides in a position to be given the assignment, and from any available inside sources who have first hand (or second hand or more remote) knowledge of how the executive order actually came to be.

Given that Bannon has been appointed to the National Security Council and that President Trump has in an almost unprecedented manner removed the Director of National Intelligence and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman (the top military officer in the United States) from the National Security Council, and given the quality of the drafting, and Bannon's involvement in the issue in question in the past, the suggestion that he drafted the travel ban is plausible. But, any greater certainty would have to come down to leaks from the White House from someone familiar with the facts and that leaker's credibility.

Also, in reality, almost any executive order in almost any administration, would be reviewed by multiple people before it is signed (i.e. they are effectively all drafted by committee to some extent), even if only to review it on a proofreading basis.

If it wasn't Bannon, it was presumably drafted by some other non-lawyer aide of President Trump in the White House Office, and probably not by someone affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security, or with the Secretary of State's office, either of which probably would have drafted the Executive Order differently.

  • Bannon, not Brannon.
    – deworde
    Jan 30, 2017 at 15:38
  • You missed a "Brannon" in the middle of the sixth paragraph. Rudy Giuliani has claimed that he was consulted on the question of how to implement a Muslim ban legally, so he may have had a hand in the drafting. Also, given the correct citations of portions of the USC, I suppose there must have been some lawyer involved somewhere, but I wonder if the designation of the class as aliens "from" as set of countries shows that any legal input was fairly low level and probably not from an immigration law specialist: it's terribly vague, and I doubt it was intentionally so.
    – phoog
    Jan 30, 2017 at 17:44
  • @phoog Someday I will hire someone to copyedit my recreational writing, but until then . . . My guess is that whoever drafted it cribbed a think tank memo without really even fully grasping the memo itself. Given Giuliani's background, I think it is more likely he was consulted at a conceptual level by telephone than it is that he played a part in drafting. Giuliani was the #3 lawyer in Reagan's Justice Department and handled issues very similar to this one in character if not in detail. Giuliani knows how to draft a solid EO.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 30, 2017 at 18:15
  • I just noticed this in the NY Times: "Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist, oversaw the writing of the order, which was done by a small White House team, including Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s policy chief." The full article is at nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/politics/….
    – phoog
    Jan 30, 2017 at 18:58
  • @phoog I'm pleased to see that the NY Times article seems to corroborate everything in my answer.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 30, 2017 at 18:59

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