Segments in this Video

Three Branches of Government (02:04)


The Constitution divides the U.S. government into three branches: Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Congress has delegated a lot of its authority to the President over time leading to conflict.

Need for Executive Privilege (02:26)

Dean Benno Schmidt addresses a panel that includes President Gerald Ford, former cabinet members, and elected officials. He outlines a scenario in which the president wants to impose an import fee on oil. Ford argues the need for executive privilege and secrecy regarding memos, discussions with advisors, and other matters of national security.

Congressional Oversight (03:39)

Rep. Barbara Mikulski explains options Congress has for conducting oversight. She would begin by calling on representatives from the Department of Energy in Schmidt's. Former presidential advisors Lloyd Cutler and Philip Buchen outline strategies for preventing the release of sensitive information.

Applying Pressure—Use of Subpoenas (03:32)

The President put his import fee into action. Mikulski elaborates on tools Congress has for applying pressure on the Executive Branch. General Counsel Stanley Brand explains the use of dragnet subpoenas to obtain memos, notes and other relevant information.

Invoking National Security (04:47)

Cutler discusses the obligation to divulge information that is not classified. President Ford and Brent Scowcroft argue that the president has the authority to act unilaterally in the interest of national security. Sen. Chris Dodd counters the argument.

Leaks and Anonymous Sources (02:25)

New York Times Columnist Tom Wicker argues for the public’s right to know the president’s motives. Jack Nelson of the Los Angeles Times discusses leaks and the need to protect confidential sources.

How Strong are Congressional Subpoenas? (02:39)

Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox says Congress may have no legal remedy to a member of the Executive Branch failing to submit to a subpoena. Brand suggests he or she can be held in contempt. James St. Clair and Buchen discuss the importance of negotiation in meeting legitimate interests.

Power of the Press—Passing Resolutions (03:20)

Brand and Ben Wattenberg discuss the importance of using the media to apply pressure and sway public opinion about disputed information. Sen. Orrin Hatch says the proper way to change what the president has done is for Congress to pass a resolution.

Citation of Contempt (06:36)

Rep. Mikulski receives a citation of contempt. President Ford insists the president has the authority to act and that Congress revoke that power instead of playing political games. Cutler advises Wattenberg to refuse to answer a limited category of questions. Mikulski describes enforcement of the contempt citation.

Precedent Not Yet Established (03:38)

Judge Patricia Wald says Wattenberg could obtain a writ of habeas corpus and prove to a judge that he was unlawfully jailed. The U.S. has gone more than 200 years without resolving the question of whether executive privilege carries more weight than a Congressional subpoena. Cox doubts Congress would have the legal authority to hold Wattenberg.

Trade Expansion Act (01:52)

The Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the president power to establish licensing fees on imported oil, or act broadly in the interest of national security. President Ford argues this approach is preferable to going to Congress when time is of the essence.

End of One-house Legislative Veto (02:02)

The Constitution assigns Congress the exclusive responsibility to draft and pass legislation; 20th century complexities result in the Legislative Branch giving some power to administrative agencies and the president. Congress gave itself the right to disapprove of a particular action by a president or agency by passing a resolution; that ended in 1983.

Unintended Consequences of Trade Act (04:59)

Sen. Dodd does not believe the intent of the Trade Expansion Act was to give the president carte blanche to act. Sen. Hatch argues the president has a separate power that is co-equal to Congress. Prof. Donald Robinson believes the two branches of government have co-conspired to “turn the Constitution upside down.”

Can Congress Delegate Power? (02:16)

Constitutional framers established a government structure they felt was essential to the protection of rights. The courts tend to restrain themselves in disputes except when the structure itself is threatened. Retired Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart argues that Congress can delegate power to the Executive Branch.

Chadha Case and Curbing Presidential Power (05:54)

Rep. Mikulski suggests teaming with Sen. Dodd to pass a joint resolution to kill the import tax; the resolution would go to the president who can veto it. The panel discusses how the Chadha case greatly diminished Congress’ ability to curb presidential power.

Ongoing Conflict (02:35)

Problems concerning separation of powers and executive privilege have been the source of some of the biggest political fights. America’s forefathers deliberately structured government in a way that is inefficient to avoid recreating tyranny.

Credits: Executive Privilege and Delegation of Powers (01:45)

Credits: Executive Privilege and Delegation of Powers

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Executive Privilege and Delegation of Powers

Part of the Series : Constitution: That Delicate Balance
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Can the President's conversations with advisors remain secret when Congress demands to know what was said? Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski, former President Gerald Ford, and Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox bring first-hand experience to this topic.

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL160410

Copyright date: ©1984

Closed Captioned

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