Justin Yang is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
The administration of President Donald Trump has been embroiled by scandal, and as various former and current officials testified before Congress, the issue of executive privilege has been raised from the front pages to the congressional committee rooms. Questions of whether President Trump might invoke executive privilege at a later stage are also being asked. But what exactly is executive privilege, what is its scope, and how can it be used?
Executive privilege is the presidential claim to a “right to preserve the confidentiality of information and documents in the face of legislative” and judicial demands.  Although such a privilege is not an explicit right the Constitution grants to the executive branch, its justification is rooted in the doctrine of separation of powers. The argument is that if the internal communications, deliberations, and actions of one branch can be forced into public scrutiny by the other two co-equal branches of government, it will impair the supremacy of the executive branch over its Constitutional activities. This is because the president benefits from the executive branch’s advice and exchange of ideas , and forcing it all into public scrutiny can harm the integrity of these discussions. Additionally, it undermines the ability of the executive branch to hold sensitive military, diplomatic, and national security information.