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How American Presidents Have Used Executive Privilege

How American Presidents Have Used Executive Privilege

President Donald Trump is pulling all stops to protect the full report of special counsel Robert Mueller. On Wednesday, Trump asserted “executive privilege” over all related documents.

“This is to advise you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of subpoeaned materials,” assistant attorney general Stephen Boyd told Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

What Happened?

House Democrats had demanded the Justice Department turn over Mueller’s materials on Russian interference in the 2016 election. They seek a verdict on the direct involvement of Trump campaign officials and obstruction of justice by the president.

Given the unanswered subpoena, the House Judiciary Committee began a hearing on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt.

“The American people see through Chairman Nadler’s desperate ploy to distract from the President’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands.”

Sanders reiterated Trump’s claim, which Nadler denounced at the committee hearing. “No person…can be permitted to flout the will of Congress and defy a valid subpoena,” he said.

See Also: Mueller Report Highlights: The Special Counsel's Conclusions On Russia, Obstruction, Collusion

What Is Executive Privilege?

Executive privilege is the power of the executive branch to resist subpoenas and other legislative or judicial requests for information. The Constitution does not explicitly grant this privilege, nor does it guarantee the other branches access to information. The Supreme Court legitimized executive privilege in United States v. Nixon.

Under the court’s ruling, the parties requesting information must prove the materials are “essential to the justice of the case.”

What Is The Precedent?

The privilege dates back to President George Washington, who declined to give the House documents on the Jay Treaty with Great Britain.

The Truman Administration blocked Congressional access to security information, and the Eisenhower Administration prevented access to army communication transcripts. The latter was said to have claimed executive privilege 44 times.

President Richard Nixon asserted privilege to protect the Watergate tapes, although the Supreme Court eventually ruled that exposing the truth served the public interest.

Executive privilege shielded the Clinton Administration 14 times and the second Bush Administration six times. Clinton lost the claim when attempting to keep aides from testifying to his sexual misconduct.

Most recently, the Obama Administration asserted privilege in its lawsuit against Fannie Mae (OTC: FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC), as well as its Operation Fast and Furious to bust illegal weapons dealers.

What’s Next?

House Democrats appear undeterred in their mission to expose Mueller’s findings.

“The Trump Administration, and its enablers, may brazenly try to cover up the misdeeds uncovered by the Special Counsel, but on this Committee we will represent the American people and ensure the truth is known,” Nadler said.

Photo courtesy of Emily Elconin.

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