United States President Barack Obama is desperately racing to the finish line before President-Elect Donald Trump comes into power, passing last-minute laws and lowering sentences for criminals on non-violent drug related charges. The world waits with bated breath for Trump to take power in one of the most military-heavy countries in the world, and Obama is rushing to try and protect as many important regulations as possible before all is lost.
On Monday, Obama granted clemency to 231 individuals, the most he has ever done in one day. He also granted 153 commutations, with a majority involved in drug-related charges. The Democrats are under a lot of pressure to provide relief to non-violent drug offenders because it is doubtful that Trump and the Republicans will continue to continue to do so. The people serving these crimes are receiving a sentence four times more strenuous than they would receive today.
Obama is also trying to protect as much legislation relating to the environment since Trump has indicated he plans to pull out of the Paris Agreement and scrap Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Trump has softened on his stance concerning the Paris Agreement, but his cabinet election shows otherwise. He has elected Scott Pruitt, a climate skeptic, as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and with Rick Perry, another known climate skeptic, as a nominee for Secretary of Energy. It goes without saying that the environment is at great risk in the United States come January 2017. Though there is little that Obama can do about the Republicans scrapping his power plan, he is trying to find ways to do what he can in his limited time left in office.
Earlier this week, Obama announced that the Interior Department will indefinitely block oil and natural gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. There is no drilling taking place currently off the East Coast or in the Arctic north of Alaska, but it is a pre-emptive move to block future drilling. Obama invoked the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to stop potential drilling in both regions. This law was passed in 1953 and indicates that the president can withdraw certain un-leased lands from federal offshore waters. There is no legislation written that would allow a new president to undo the ban from a previous president, which means that Trump wouldn’t be able to change Obama’s action.
Other key actions by the EPA have included strong fuel-economy standards that moved much faster than originally planned, tighter restrictions on coal mining near streams and placing an indefinite pause of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. Obama also banned the sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska over the next five years.
Aside from environmental concerns, Obama is trying to create political transparency arising from concerns that the Russian government hacked the U.S. cyberspace in ways that could’ve affected the 2016 presidential election. Last week, the CIA determined that the Russians intervened to help Trump win. The report will contain findings about the level of hacking activity, but it is unclear how much of the information will be made public. Obama vows to retaliate against Russia for the hacks, and people are eagerly awaiting his next move.
It is clear that Obama is doing what he can to protect integral laws in the United States before he hands over leadership to Trump. Banning offshore drilling in the Atlantic and the Arctic is a good example of using an act to protect the environment from future climate skeptics that will be in power in the future. There are a few key items that Obama will not have time to change, most notably international relations with Israel and Palestine.
Though there is only so much that Obama can do before he leaves office, he should keep up the pace and keep making as many changes as possible to make it more difficult for the future administration to undo essential U.S. legislation. As is stands though, Obama will be remembered as a professional and fair president — and compared to Trump, he is on his way to being remembered as a hero.