In a piece posted to Medium this Thursday, Rutgers professor of history and journalism, David Greenberg, writes that one of the “great puzzles” of the House impeachment hearings against President Trump is the fact that so many White House officials are defying congressional demands to testify. According to Greenberg, the fact that Congress made the hearings public has made administration claims of immunity from testifying even more “tenuous.”
“But the White House continues to invoke ‘executive privilege’ — a real but ill-defined doctrine that seeks to guarantee that a president can receive unvarnished counsel,” Greenberg writes. “If the conversations among top aides were subject to routine public exposure, the argument goes, they would refrain from offering their candid advice.”
Greenberg cites the resignation of former President Nixon in 1974, saying that the reason for his resignation was due to the fact that the Supreme Court “severely limited” his use of executive privilege.
“Precedent, in other words, is not on Trump’s side,” says Greenberg. “If the court acts responsibly, it will order [officials who refuse to testify] — as well as other recalcitrant administration officials — to testify.”
Thanks to Americans’ growing suspicion that past presidents’ claims of executive privilege were just a means to hide evidence of their own malfeasance, Nixon bore the consequences of that skepticism, which came to a head during Watergate. Like they did during the Nixon era, it’s now time for the judiciary to “push back against the White House,” Greenberg argues.
“A court ruling that executive privilege cannot prevent vital testimony in a case of allegedly impeachable behavior would go a long way not only toward helping Congress get to the bottom of the Ukraine scandal, but also in limiting once again the dangerously amorphous and expandable concept of executive privilege.”
Read Greenberg’s full piece over at Medium.
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