Executive Privilege

Executive Privilege

Included in select U.S. and Canadian Core Subscriptions* at no additional charge!

  • A comprehensive resource for primary and secondary material relating to executive privilege
  • Hundreds of congressional hearings, reports, memoranda, related scholarly articles, and other documents from all three government branches
  • Extensive metadata indexing, allowing for unique browse options and a custom search index

What Is Executive Privilege?

Executive privilege is the right of the president of the United States to keep certain information confidential from subpoenas and other oversight measures by the legislative and judicial branches of government. Contrary to popular belief, executive privilege is not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Instead, it is an implied power based on the separation of powers that the Constitution outlines. Presidents have argued that in order to effectively govern, some degree of confidentiality must exist in order to have frank and candid discussions with their aides and staff members. Executive privilege is frequently invoked in the name of national security, but there is no set standard or issues in which executive privilege can be invoked; it’s the prerogative of the president regarding when to assert executive privilege.

The issue of executive privilege was most famously addressed in the 1974 Supreme Court case United States v. Nixon, which compelled President Richard Nixon to produce his Oval Office audiotapes of conversations regarding the Watergate investigation. The President argued that his station was absolutely immune from the judicial process. The Supreme Court disagreed, and held that “neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances.”

Since then, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have all asserted executive privilege and been met with opposition from the legislative and judicial branches. Most recently, President Trump has claimed executive privilege with respect to both documents and testimony. Some of these claims are still making their way through the courts and, like every executive privilege case, have the potential to upend the delicate balance of power between the three branches of our government.

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Title List:

About the Executive Privilege Database

To help understand this mighty but ill-defined power, HeinOnline’s new Executive Privilege database provides primary and secondary source material such as government documents from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches and related books and scholarly articles. Peruse congressional hearings, reports, memoranda, and more, as well as law review articles and books that invoke, debate, and explore instances of executive privilege from our country’s founding to the present day.

unique browse options

Significant metadata has been extracted from the documents in this database, creating unique browse options for perusing the hundreds of available titles.

Utilize this feature to find documents associated with famous and infamous moments in presidential history, for example, by using the Browse by Controversy feature.

Other browse options are TitleAuthorBranch, Administration, and Privilege.


Use the custom search index to search the full text of these documents by keyword, creator/author, title, or administration. To further refine the results, limit your search to a particular date range.

Select any of the facets on the left-hand side to further narrow down the entries by date, title, branch, or document category or type. Re-order your list of results by choosing to sort by relevance, volume date, or title.

From right within the results, download the PDF, email it to a colleague, or save it to your MyHein account.


In addition to the hundreds of government documents included in this database, find links to a wealth of related scholarly work from right within the interface.

All scholarly documents have been carefully selected by HeinOnline editors for their relevance to the database, and they link right to our very own Law Journal Library. Sort the works by article title, author, most-cited, or year. Search all of the works at once by title or author, as well.


About the Editor

Maxwell D. Anderson is a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Law (2019). During law school, he immersed himself in constitutional law, and soon became interested in executive privilege, about which he wrote a seminar paper and an independent study paper. While conducting research for his in-depth work on the topic, he began collecting and cataloguing primary source material related to executive privilege, eventually amassing a treasure trove of topical documents, complete with spreadsheets of references and cross-references. In the fall 2017 semester, he interned in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in Washington, D.C., where he gained an appreciation for apolitical relationship-building. Prior to law school, he graduated magna cum laude from the University of North Texas, where he double majored in political science and communication studies with an emphasis in rhetoric.

Included in the Following Core Packages:

The Executive Privilege database is included at no additional cost in the following subscription packages:

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