What is executive privilege? A look at a way presidents try to keep secrets from Congress

June 22, 2012

By Associated Press, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Presidents going back to George Washington have claimed a murky power to keep the inner workings of their administrations secret from Congress.

That authority, known as executive privilege, isn’t in the Constitution. It hasn’t been clearly defined by the courts. Yet invoking it has proved effective for presidents determined to keep witnesses or documents away from congressional investigators.
President Barack Obama is the latest to assert the privilege.

He refused on Wednesday to turn over some Justice Department documents about a botched anti-smuggling operation that allowed hundreds of guns sold in Arizona to end up in Mexico. The House Government Oversight and Reform Committee has voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. The committee’s recommendation goes to the full House for a vote, unless the White House and lawmakers negotiate a way to defuse the conflict.

A look, in question and answer form, at executive privilege and the fuzzy state of the law regarding showdowns between Congress and a president:

Q: How can a president shrug off a subpoena from a congressional committee?

To read more, visit:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/whitehouse/what-is-executive-privilege-a-look-at-presidents-authority-to-keep-secrets-from-congress/2012/06/21/gJQAXro3rV_story.html

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