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Use of executive privilege cuts to fabric of separation of powers

Media Contact

Rachel Rhodes

The Trump administration announced Wednesday morning that it would invoke executive privilege over the full Mueller report, blocking Congressional attempts to gain access to the unredacted report.


Douglas L. Kriner

Professor of Government

Doug Kriner, professor in Cornell University’s Government Department and author of the book “Investigating the President: Congressional Checks on Presidential Power,” says that the conflict over the Mueller report threatens the balance of power between the presidency and Congress.

Kriner says:

"The brewing subpoena battle on Capitol Hill is about more than the Russia investigation: it cuts to the very fabric of separation of powers. 

"As the inter-branch dustup over the wall emergency declaration showed, Congress is often all but powerless to rein in a wayward president. Bicameralism, the Senate filibuster, and the presidential veto pen can block most legislation to check presidential power. 

"Although frustrated legislatively, historically Congress has used the power of investigation to shine a light on alleged executive misconduct and to exercise a meaningful check on presidential power. But this check critically depends on Congress’ capacity to access the information it needs for effective oversight. 

"Legislators and presidents have battled over access to information and claims of executive privilege since the dawn of the Republic.  However, the Trump administration’s broad refusals to cooperate with investigators and rejection of Congress’ legitimate oversight function threatens to undermine this tenuous, but critical, check on presidential power."


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