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Executive privilege

Executive privilege is the power of the President of the United States and other members of the executive branch of the United States Government to resist certain subpoenas and other interventions by the legislative and judicial branches of government in pursuit of information or personnel relating to the executive. The power of Congress or the federal courts to obtain such information is not mentioned explicitly in the United States Constitution, nor is there any explicit mention in the Constitution of an executive privilege to resist such requests from Congress or courts. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled this privilege may qualify as an element of the separation of powers doctrine, derived from the supremacy of the executive branch in its own area of Constitutional activity.

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The two basic arguments that support the idea of executive privilege which were discussed in class were expounded on in this article. Executive privilege is the allowance of private and secret communications between the president and his advisers. The first argument is that the prominent idea of separation of powers that illustrates that one branch of the government doesn’t have the right to be involved in the insider workings of another branch. This argument is held by President Obama as he feels as though Issa does not have a right to access those documents. The Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General are seemingly the “other branch” that the “insider workings” are being debated. Generally the Supreme Court concedes that there are some military/diplomatic matters that should preserve executive privilege. This case, concerning the sensitivity of the possible cause for an official’s death, can definitely warrant the preservation of executive privilege. However, the argument for Issa is that there is not full immunity from making the private workings public. If full immunity was the case it would undermine the role of the court to decide criminal casesIn this case, President Obama is trying to protect Holder from contempt charges that could very well be issued. As a result of all these debates over executive privilege, the number of people whom the president can trust has decreased as this makes it possible for officials can be later “compelled” to testify against the president with the private information. Also this shows the workings of federalism in American government showing the triangle of power between all three branches of government. The court is holding the decision of this case in their hands where the two major parties are the executive branch in President Obama and the legislative branch in Issa. The judicial branch is stepping in to resolve the conflict between the other two branches showing the process of checks and balances. Congress is questioning the authority of the president and can do so because of the power it yields itself, relating back to the separation of powers aspect.

Contributed by Jen Lee

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