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executive privilege

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The right of the executive to withhold information from the legislature or courts.

In the United States executive privilege has been used by the President, and executive officials given the right by the President, to refuse to appear before congressional committees. Executive privilege has no constitutional basis, but has been claimed as an inherent power based on the separation of powers, and in order to protect the national interest. The right was curtailed by the Supreme Court in 1974, in the case of US v. Nixon, which held that executive privilege was not absolute. The case followed President Nixon's claim that executive privilege meant he could withhold tapes concerning the Watergate scandal from Congress.

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