ACLU Outlines Plan to Protect Rights Under Trump Administration, Files Its First Information Request

"Trump took the oath, but he didn't take the steps necessary to ensure that he and his family’s business interests comply with the Constitution and other federal statutes,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In his first week in office, Trump has already issued several executive orders that have racial justice, civil rights, and environmental advocates concerned. Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a multi-pronged strategy last week in anticipation of unconstitutional policies or potential conflicts of interest from the new administration, and has already taken its first legal action.

Released the night before Inauguration Day, the seven-point plan aims to demand government accountability and transparency, defend reproductive rights, and protect immigrant, LGBT, and core civil rights, according to a news release.

“The ACLU’s charge, laid out in our Seven-Point Plan, is to stand ready to confront any unconstitutional elements of the administration’s agenda,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, in a blog post published on the organization’s website.

“By taking the oath of office the president swears to uphold the Constitution. Now that President Trump has taken the oath of office, the clock starts ticking on the possibility of those conflicts becoming impeachable offenses,” said Rewire Vice President for Law and the Courts Jessica Mason Pieklo, who recently wrote about the constitutional crisis facing the nation as Trump’s administration begins.

In his first week in office, Trump has already issued several executive orders that have racial justice, civil rights, and environmental advocates concerned.

He has enacted a broad federal employment freeze; taken the first step to undermine the Affordable Care Act; signed orders targeting sanctuary cities and starting additional construction on “a large physical barrier” along the southern border; advanced two controversial oil pipelines—Dakota Access and Keystone XL; reinstated an anti-choice restriction on U.S. aid for family planning overseas; instituted a media blackout and frozen all new contracts and grants at the Environmental Protection Agency; halted a mortgage fee reduction that benefitted first-time home buyers and low-income borrowers; and withdrawn from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal negotiations.

He is expected to sign an order this week preventing U.S. admittance to Muslims from seven middle eastern countries, as he talked about on the campaign trail.

Even prior to these actions, Romero said in his blog post that the ACLU believes the Trump administration “poses the single greatest threat to civil liberties, civil rights, and the rule of law in modern memory.”

The civil liberties organization pointed to his rhetoric and platform, suggesting potential violations to the FirstFourth, Fifth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In its first legal action, a Freedom of Information Act request, the ACLU asked government agencies to turn over documents relating to the new president’s actual or potential conflicts of interest in relation to his business and family. Among other things, Trump has given his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a leadership role in the White House, raising ethics questions for some legal experts.

The ACLU’s request includes calls for “legal opinions, memoranda, advisories, and communications from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of Government Ethics, the General Services Administration, and the office of Personnel Management from November 9, 2016, to January 20, 2017,” as well as email and other communications to and from the transition team.

“We are bringing this first legal action using the Freedom of Information Act to underscore the fact that President Trump is not above the law. Trump took the oath, but he didn’t take the steps necessary to ensure that he and his family’s business interests comply with the Constitution and other federal statutes,” Romero said in the release.

Soon after Trump’s inauguration, pages on civil rights, disabilities, LGBT rights, climate change, and health disappeared from the White House website. The Spanish version of WhiteHouse.gov also went missing. Change is not uncommon when a new administration takes office and those pages are now archived along with President Obama’s other actions. But given the Trump campaign’s controversial rhetoric on these issues, critics are far from reassured that the pages will return.

Meanwhile, Trump has declined to release his tax returns despite repeated requests from Democrats and the media, and has not responded to concerns about his appointees to a cabinet, which is starkly male, white, and rich.

“With such dark clouds appearing on the horizon, it would be irresponsible not to prepare for the inevitable storm. The day after the election, we took the president-elect’s extreme rhetoric seriously and began prepping for the incoming administration,” Romero said.

The ACLU will implement its plan “by adding up to 100 full-time employees across the country, paid for by its Constitution Defense Fund, which has already attracted nearly 400,000 donations since Election Day,” according to the release.

“With thousands of lawyers now under the command of Trump and his appointees, we need all the support we can get in order to litigate against the administration and deploy other hard-nosed tactics in the battle to protect the rights of all people,” Romero said. “We will litigate every unconstitutional policy this administration tries to enact, robbing them of time and bandwidth, making their style of governing cumbersome and hopefully impossible.”