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Debbie O'Leary
IU School of Law-Bloomington

Last modified: Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Media Advisory: Constitutional Law expert available to comment on use of executive privilege

March 28, 2007

A Senate committee has approved subpoenas to White House adviser Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers, and deputy White House counsel William Kelley to explain their roles in the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys. The issue raises key questions on the doctrine of executive privilege in protecting private conversations with the president's key staff. Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington Professor Dawn Johnsen, a former acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Bill Clinton, is available to speak about issues of executive privilege as it relates to this situation.

While not mentioned in the Constitution, executive privilege has long been considered an element of the separation of powers of the three branches of government, Johnsen said.

"Executive privilege, when properly invoked, serves important purposes, and presidents frequently resist congressional efforts to compel testimony from high-level White House advisors. But Congress sometimes possesses strong counterveiling needs for information that the president has an obligation to accommodate. With questions of possible wrongdoing over President Bush's firings of U.S. attorneys and inconsistent explanations from executive branch officials, the current White House offer of a one-time, closed-door, off-the-record, un-sworn session is inadequate to Congress's needs," she said.

Johnsen, whose courses include "Constitutional Law," "The First Amendment" and "Seminar in the Separation of Powers," has testified before Congress, is a frequent speaker at national conferences and has appeared on many national television and radio news programs. She can be reached at or at 812-856-4984.