After signing bills into laws, presidents have sometimes issued “signing statements” that assert their interpretation of the law or challenges – constitutional and otherwise – to provisions within the law and how they would be administered. This action picked up significantly under President Reagan and has been used by every president since.
President Trump’s signing statement accompanying the recently enacted Pentagon policy bill (National Defense Authorization Act) runs five pages and points out all the many provisions he is not planning on complying with. There’s a lot to digest in this refusal to follow dozens of aspects of the law just passed by the Congress.
But most importantly for a budget watchdog are the reports the President says he will not have the Pentagon submit to Congress. The statement says these sections, “…purport to mandate or regulate the dissemination of information that may be protected by executive privilege, including by interfering with Presidential control of the process for making a determination that information is protected.”
Several of the reports the President intends to suppress relate to arms control, nuclear, missile defense and cyber issues and the use of military force. But the signing statement also seems to protect Saudi Arabian interests by quashing two reports on the death of Jamal Khashoggi. And the interests of the Russian Federation and President Putin also seem to be prioritized. Whistleblower disclosures are another apparent target. And, alarmingly, reporting on foreign influence operations in the United States are among the things the President doesn’t want the Administration reporting to Congress about.
This signing statement takes a huge bite out of Congressional oversight. And when oversight dwindles, wasteful spending and outright fraud can flourish.
Below is a list of the reporting requirements identified in one section of the signing statement. You can refer to the bill text to read the sections or subsections the President intends to ignore.
SEC. 1236. Report on treaties relating to nuclear arms control. (Subsection (5) on status of all consultations.)
SEC. 1261. Modification to report on legal and policy frameworks for the use of military force.
SEC. 1264. Limitation on production of nuclear proliferation assessment statements.
SEC. 1277. Report on intelligence community assessment relating to the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
SEC. 1285. Reports and briefings on use of military force and support of partner forces.
SEC. 1644. Annual military cyberspace operations report.
SEC. 1650. National security presidential memorandums relating to Department of Defense operations in cyberspace.
SEC. 1686. Limitation on availability of funds for lower tier air and missile defense sensor. (Subsection (b) Report.)
SEC. 1691. Missile defense interceptor site in contiguous United States.
SEC. 1711. Annual report on Joint Military Information Support Operations web operations center
SEC. 1722. Report on transfers of equipment to prohibited entities.
SEC. 1744. Oversight of Department of Defense Execute Orders.
SEC. 1753. Independent studies regarding potential cost savings with respect to The Nuclear Security Enterprise and force structure. (Subsection (a)(3) on access to classified information in review of nuclear deterrence postures.)
SEC. 3134. Improvements to Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act oF 2000. (Subsection (b)(2)(A) which includes Secretary of Labor responsibilities)
SEC. 3202. Improvements to Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (Section (c) laying out the responsibilities of the EDO.)
SEC. 3554. Gulf of Mexico IUU Fishing Subworking Group. (Subsection (b)(1)(A) on surveillance of foreign nationals.)
SEC. 5102. Classified schedule of authorizations. (Section (b) on dissemination of information to Congress)
SEC. 5304. Required counterintelligence assessments, briefings, notifications, and reports. (Subsection (b) on briefings)
SEC. 5501. Annual reports on influence operations and campaigns in the United States by the Russian Federation.
SEC. 5502. Assessment of legitimate and illegitimate financial and other assets of Vladimir Putin. (Subsection (b)(3-4), on the details and methods of Putin finances.)
SEC. 5602. Strategic intelligence assessment of and reports on domestic terrorism. (Subsection (b)(3-4) on discussion and data.)
SEC. 5709. Report on deepfake technology, foreign weaponization of deepfakes, and related notifications. (Subsections (a) Report and (c) Assessment.)
SEC. 5713. Oversight of foreign influence in academia.
SEC. 5714. Report on death of Jamal Khashoggi.
SEC. 5715. Report on terrorist screening database.
SEC. 5721. Whistleblower disclosures to Congress and Committees of Congress.
SEC. 5722. Task force on illicit financing of espionage and foreign influence operations. (Subsection (d)(1) on initial report.)
SEC. 6310. Limitations on determinations regarding certain security classifications. (Subsection (a) on prohibitions.)
SEC. 6315. Submission of Intelligence Community policies. (Subsection (b)(1) on submission of policies.)
SEC. 6507. Notification of significant foreign cyber intrusions and active measures campaigns directed at elections for federal offices. (Subsection (c)(1)(b) on briefings and identifications.)
SEC. 6603. Improving the process for security clearances. (Subsection (b) on Policy, Strategy and Implementation.)
SEC. 6604. Goals for promptness of determinations regarding security clearances. (Subsection (a) In General and (b) Certain Reinvestigations.)
SEC. 6705. Report and annual briefing on Iranian expenditures supporting foreign military and terrorist activities.
SEC. 6716. Biennial report on foreign investment risks.
SEC. 6718. Semiannual reports on investigations of unauthorized disclosures of classified information. (Subsection (a) on Definitions.)
SEC. 6719. Congressional notification of designation of covered intelligence officer as PERSONA NON GRATA.
SEC. 6729. Intelligence assessment of North Korea revenue sources. (Subsection (b) on elements of the assessment.)
SEC. 6741. Public Interest Declassification Board.
SEC. 7221. Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking. (Subsection (e) on Duties.)