Why executive privilege is at the heart of the impeachment trial

Legal scholar Claire Finkelstein, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, says it’s vital for people to “push back on the notion of executive privilege.” The White House has refused to cooperate with the impeachment process, even blocking witnesses from testifying at the Senate trial, all under the umbrella of executive privilege — the power that U.S. presidents have of shielding some decisions and communications from the other branches of government. But Finkelstein says executive privilege “has become a broader and broader concept in recent years,” with each president claiming more and more authority to act without oversight or accountability. “When you see arguments that seem to have a veneer of credibility, enough so that the president’s legal team feels they can argue it with impunity, saying that the president actually has the right to block witnesses and refuse to turn over documents in his own impeachment trial, you know that that means that the Senate cannot serve as the check and balance that the Founders designed it to serve,” Finkelstein says.

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