Which US Presidents Have Invoked Executive Privilege Throughout History?
Today marks the first time President Obama has asserted executive privilege during his administration, but it's certainly not the first time such an assertion has been made by a commander in chief, as rare as it may be.
Since the Reagan administration, executive privilege has been invoked 25 times: three times by Reagan, one time by the first President George H.W. Bush, 14 times by President Clinton, six times by George W. Bush, and now once by Obama
For a bit more historical perspective,
executive privilege has also been asserted during some notable times throughout history, dating back to George Washington, who also refused to comply with requests from the House of Representatives when they wanted documents related to a treaty with Great Britain.
Thomas Jefferson also asserted the privilege in regards to documents requested in the treason trial of Aaron Burr. Jefferson said the documents must be kept secret, claiming their release would endanger the public's safety. The Supreme Court, however, overruled Jefferson's claim and the documents were released.
In more modern times, Presidents Truman and Eisenhower used the privilege, but it may be President Nixon's assertion of it during the height of the Watergate scandal that is most notable. Nixon invoked the privilege to keep from turning over audio tapes of White House conversations on charges that had been brought against members of his administration. In his case, the Supreme Court decided that getting the truth was more important than concealing the tapes.
Watch the video below for more historical recap, and for you history and politics buffs out there, take a look at the complete 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service, discussing the history of claims of executive privilege, including various unresolved questions surrounding its use.