THE CONSTITUTION: The Law on the Tapes and Papers

When the congressional request for certain of his papers was formally filed, the President quickly convened a Cabinet meeting so that the confrontation would be handled as correctly and carefully as possible. George Washington knew that this first effort of Congress to investigate an Executive Branch matter would be a vital precedent. He and his Cabinet members unanimously agreed "that the Executive ought to communicate such papers as the public good would permit and ought to refuse those the disclosure of which would injure the public."

That 1792 precedent has stood. As...

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