Presidential memorandum

A presidential memorandum is a type of directive issued by the president of the United States to manage and govern the actions, practices, and policies of the various departments and agencies found under the executive branch of the United States government. It has the force of law and is usually used to delegate tasks, direct specific government agencies to do something, or to start a regulatory process.[1] There are three types of presidential memoranda: presidential determination or presidential finding, memorandum of disapproval, and hortatory memorandum.[2]

Sometimes used interchangeably, an executive order is a more prestigious form of executive action that must cite the specific constitutional or statutory authority the president has to use it.[1] Unlike executive orders, memoranda are not required by law to be published in the Federal Register, but publication is necessary in order to have "general applicability and legal effect".[3] The Federal Register gives publication priority to executive orders and presidential proclamations over memoranda.[4] Memoranda can be amended or rescinded by executive orders or another memorandum, but executive orders take legal precedence and cannot be changed by a memorandum.[3]


In the past, presidential memoranda have been referred to as presidential letters.[2]

President Number Issued
Barack Obama 644[5]
Donald Trump (as of January 6, 2020) 167[6]

Presidential determination

Presidential determination, or presidential finding, are memoranda required by a statute and must be issued before certain actions are taken. For example, a presidential determination on the status of a country must be released before sanctions are imposed on the country.[2]

Memorandum of disapproval

A memorandum of disapproval is a public veto statement.[2]

Hortatory memorandum

A hortatory memorandum is issued as a broad policy statement, but unlike a presidential proclamation is directed to executive agencies.[2]

National security presidential memorandum

In 2017, President Donald Trump changed the national security directives to national security presidential memorandum. They operate like executive orders, but are only in the area of national security. They date back to President Harry S. Truman and have been called many different names.[7]

See also


  1. "The Difference Between an Executive Order and a Presidential Memorandum" (Video). ABC News. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  2. "Presidential Documents". SDSU Library & Information Access. Retrieved January 31, 2009.
  3. Korte, Gregory (January 25, 2017). "Executive order vs. presidential memorandum: What's the difference?". USA TODAY. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  4. Korte, Gregory (December 17, 2016). "Obama issues 'executive orders by another name'". USA TODAY. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  5. "Presidential Memoranda". January 20, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017 via National Archives.
  6. "Presidential Memoranda". May 14, 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2017 via National Archives.
  7. Korte, Gregory (October 12, 2017). "The executive action toolbox: How presidents use proclamations, executive orders and memoranda". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved November 9, 2017.