The Trump administration opened the door to allowing more firearms on federal lands. It scrubbed references to "L.G.B.T.Q. youth" from the description of a federal program for victims of sex trafficking. And, on the advice of religious leaders, it eliminated funding to international groups that provide abortion.
While these initiatives lacked the fanfare of some of President Trump's high-profile proclamations — like his ban on transgender people in the military — they point to a fundamental repurposing of the federal bureaucracy to promote conservative social priorities.
The aggressive regulatory effort, which runs counter to the Trump administration's less-is-more credo about government meddling, has led to policy changes related to gun ownership, gay rights, reproductive choices, immigration and other divisive political issues, according to a New York Times review of government documents and court records, as well as interviews with more than four dozen people involved in or briefed on the efforts.
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The overhaul is unfolding behind the scenes in Washington at agencies like the Health and Human Services Department, where new rules about birth control are being drafted, and in federal courtrooms, where the Justice Department has shifted gears in more than a dozen Obama-era cases involving social issues.
The turnabout stems in part from lobbying by evangelical Christians and other conservative groups. In interviews, these groups said they have regular discussions on domestic and foreign policy with the administration — more so than during the presidency of George W. Bush, the last Republican to occupy the White House and someone who identified as a Christian conservative.
"Everybody has points of contact, and not just secretaries either," said Johnnie Moore, a Christian leader who owns a public relations firm and advises the White House on religious matters. "It is higher up people — directors or deputy directors. And it is all across the government."
Top White House officials have led the outreach, including Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's Orthodox Jewish son-in-law, and Vice President Mike Pence, a staunch social and religious Christian conservative. Kellyanne Conway, a senior aide, counted some of these groups among her paying clients before joining the White House.
Yet the new direction has also met some resistance among rank-and-file civil servants. Within the Justice Department, several long-serving lawyers have decided to retire or quit rather than help carry out the new policies, according to people briefed on the departures.
While turnover is natural after an election, some of these departing lawyers worked at the department through previous Republican administrations — under Ronald Reagan and both Bushes — and they have privately told colleagues that recent changes twist the law in directions that make them uncomfortable.
For example, a debate arose over immigration in recent weeks, when high-ranking Justice Department officials explored whether they could apply a law commonly used to prosecute businesses to instead punish so-called sanctuary cities, according to several former officials briefed on the issue.
Mr. Trump has roundly criticized these cities, which limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and he has threatened to withhold federal funding to them. Some of the department's veteran lawyers opposed the more aggressive options as not legally justifiable.
Some of these lawyers also faced the unpalatable task of undoing their work defending Obama-era regulations, such as those on birth control and transgender rights. Rather than help roll back those rules, the officials decided to leave the government, according to the people briefed on the departures, who were not authorized to speak publicly about personnel matters.
"All of the things you count on the Justice Department's institutional bureaucracy for — thoughtful, deliberate attention to process, including all stakeholders — it seems to have been thrown out," said Sharon McGowan, a former senior career official who joined the Justice Department in 2010 and worked in the civil rights division until departing a few weeks into the Trump administration.
Ms. McGowan, the only former career official who agreed to comment for this article, noted that some of her former colleagues are staying despite concerns.
"Some are absolutely staying because they feel like they're afraid of who'd get put in their seat if they left," said Ms. McGowan, who now works at Lambda Legal, an advocacy organization focused on L.G.B.T. rights.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, while a White House spokesman said that the president "is proud to promote a conservative agenda that has been far too long ignored by the Obama administration."
Despite their bond, some religious conservatives have expressed disappointment in Mr. Trump or faced pressure to distance themselves from controversial positions. Some denounced Mr. Trump's response last month to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and disagreed with his move to end the program that blocks young undocumented immigrants from being deported.
For Mr. Trump, who only recently adopted socially conservative causes, an alliance with the religious right might seem an odd fit. And with his newfound deal-making with Democrats in Congress, it is unknown if his social priorities might change. But these conservative groups voted for him in large numbers, and as president, Mr. Trump has remained loyal: He appointed Neil Gorsuch, a favorite of social conservatives, to the Supreme Court, and he stocked his cabinet with others like Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The alliance has alarmed social liberals, who enjoyed considerable victories and an expansion of rights under the Obama administration.
"It feels like everything is up for grabs," said David Edwards of Minneapolis, who successfully fought for transgender inclusion at a school he said had discriminated against his then 5-year-old child. The conservative groups, he said, have been "thirsting for political power and for someone to advocate their agenda," adding, "They found an answer."
With the shift in Washington, many top conservative groups have increased their spending on lobbying. In the first half of this year, the National Rifle Association almost doubled what it spent in the same period last year, according to Senate data.
Spending by the top anti-abortion lobbying groups increased as well. The Susan B. Anthony List spent $390,000 in the first half of this year and projected it would spend $400,000 in the second half, almost doubling the yearly total for 2016, which had been its biggest year.
And, for the first time, the group has directed some of that money toward lobbying the White House and Health and Human Services Department, instead of targeting only Congress.
Mallory Quigley, communications director for the group, which backs political candidates opposed to abortion, said that over the last eight years it "never even had an opportunity to start building relationships" with the executive branch.