PROTECTIVE ASSERTION OF EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE REGARDING WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL'S OFFICE DOCUMENTS

      Executive privilege may properly be asserted with respect to the entire set of White House Counsel's Office documents currently being withheld from the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight of the House of Representatives, pending a final Presidential decision on the matter. This would be a protective assertion of executive privilege designed to ensure the President's ability to make a final decision, after consultation with the Attorney General, as to which specific documents are deserving of a conclusive claim of executive privilege.

  May 8, 1996

THE PRESIDENT
     THE WHITE HOUSE

      MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: You have requested my legal advice as to whether executive privilege may properly be asserted in response to a subpoena issued to the Counsel to the President by the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight of the House of Representatives.

      The subpoena covers a large volume of confidential White House Counsel's Office documents. The Counsel to the President notified the Chairman of the Committee today that he was invoking the procedures of the standing directive governing consideration of whether to assert executive privilege, President Reagan's memorandum of November 4, 1982, and that he specifically requested, pursuant to paragraph 5 of that directive, that the Committee hold its subpoena in abeyance pending a final Presidential decision on the matter. Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, Re: Procedures Governing Responses to Congressional Requests for Information at 2 (Nov. 4, 1982). This request was necessitated by the deadline imposed by the Chairman, the volume of documents that must be specifically and individually reviewed for possible assertion of privilege and the need under the directive to consult with the Attorney General, on the basis of that review, before presenting the matter to the President for a final determination. The Chairman rejected the request and indicated that he intends to proceed with a Committee vote on the contempt citation tomorrow.

      Based on these circumstances, it is my legal judgment that executive privilege may properly be asserted with respect to the entire set of White House Counsel's Office documents currently being withheld from the Committee, pending a final Presidential decision on the matter. This would be a protective assertion of executive privilege designed to ensure your ability to make a final decision, after consultation with the Attorney General, as to which specific documents are deserving of a conclusive claim of executive privilege.

  Sincerely,


JANET RENO
Attorney General