The principle of executive privilege—the right of the president, and perhaps others in the executive branch, to withhold government documents and information from the Congress and the courts, and by extension the public—has been controversial since it was first claimed by President George Washington, who argued that some information could be withheld from the Congress if it was in the public interest to do so. (The Congress declined to argue the point.) Historians have argued that no such doctrine is allowable in a democratic society. Yet that opinion has been a minority view, and most have agreed that such a doctrine not only exists, but is important to the functioning of the presidency. Many executive privilege claims, however, have exceeded any reasonable definition of the power, including efforts to use the doctrine to avoid political embarrassment rather than to protect national security or other significant injury.
KeywordsCriminal Prosecution Grand Jury Civil Litigation Discovery Order Discovery Request
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