Trump Onslaught on International Law and Institutions

In mid-March 2017, Jack Goldsmith wrote that “we are witnessing the beginnings of the greatest presidential onslaught on international law and international institutions in American history.”  This page documents that onslaught, in reverse chronological order.


March 24, 2017. The Trump administration plans a 40% cut to the State Department peacekeeping budget and the elimination of all U.S. funding to the International Organizations and Programs account, which provides large amounts of funding to UNICEF, the U.N. Development Program, and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, among other international organizations. 

March 23, 2017. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he will reschedule a meeting of NATO foreign ministers next month after Secretary of State Tillerson makes plans to skip the meeting in favor of a visit to Russia later in April. 

March 18, 2017.  Under American pressure, G20 drops its traditional pledge to oppose protectionism. 

March 16, 2017.  NYT documents Secretary of State Tillerson’s “low-energy” diplomacy.  

March 15, 2017.  Trump proposes budget that would cut sharply the State Department and USAID budgets, and that would eliminate various agencies related to international affairs as well as funding for the United Nations and many of its agencies.

March 13, 2017.  It becomes clear that President Trump is in the process of removing the policy restrictions that President Obama imposed on the use of force against terrorists and of using force closer to the broad legal limits marked out by the Obama administration.

March 8, 2017.  Secretary of State Tillerson has threatens to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council absent “considerable reform.” 

March 3, 2017.  In a breach of tradition, neither Secretary of State Tillerson nor anyone else at the State Department appears in person to introduce the rollout of the Department’s annual human rights report.

February 15, 2017.   Secretary of Defense Mattis threatens to reduce NATO funding unless NATO allies pony up. 

January 25, 2017.  Draft Executive Orders on “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations” and “Moratorium on New Multilateral Treaties” leak.

January 23, 2017.  President formally abandons the Trans-Pacific Partnership.