As many media outlets and social media users were quick to point out Friday, President Donald Trump’s administration wasted no time in implementing sweeping changes to the White House’s online presence.
In particular, the differences between Barack Obama’s WhiteHouse.gov and Trump’s were startling to many.
But there is one page that was left untouched: petitions.whitehouse.gov. And people quickly took advantage of that.
The petitions page on the president’s website was started as part of Obama’s “We The People” initiative to establish a direct link between the White House and the general public. Anyone could start a petition, and if it received 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the White House would issue an official response.
Under Obama, petitions ranged from the serious —requesting pardons for public figures — to the silly — nearly 35,000 people requested the government construct a Death Star from the film series “Star Wars.”
Under Trump, the first few petitions seem to have been started by people critical of the new president. The very first petition to reach 100,000 signatures did so before 24 hours of a Trump presidency had elapsed and called on him to release his full tax returns, per the Washington Post.
The issue of Trump’s tax returns was a contentious one on the campaign trail and in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election, as the Republican defied decades of tradition for major party candidates in refusing to make his tax records public, claiming that he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service and thus could not. The IRS, however, has said an audit does not prevent someone from making their tax returns public, though Trump is not legally required to do so either, per PolitiFact.
The White House petition has already been signed by nearly 150,000 people as of Saturday afternoon, though it still has much further to go to match the most popular petitions under Obama, including one asking that Pakistan be declared a state sponsor of terrorism that garnered more than 660,000 signatures.
The second most popular petition on the site as of Saturday is one asking Trump to either divest from his business holdings or place them in a blind trust, which has 42,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon. Trump has previously said he will hand over control of his businesses to his sons and take steps to ensure there is no conflict of interest, but ethics experts have questioned whether those steps are enough, per the New York Times.
The signing period for both of those petitions will end Feb. 19. From then, the administration will have 60 days to formally respond, according to the website. That would mean the administration would have to respond by April 20.