Guide to Congressional Oversight Precedent
Over the nearly 50 years since the Watergate hearings, congressional oversight committees have obtained information from the White House and other executive agencies on a wide variety of sensitive subjects such as the exercise of presidential constitutional authority, White House security, Department of Justice investigations, and interactions between the White House and top cabinet officials. This guide summarizes key precedents concerning executive branch document production and the congressional testimony of senior administration officials including White House chiefs of staff, White House counsels, and national security advisors. Additional precedents will be added to this page on a rolling basis.
Co-Equal believes there should be one set of consistent rules for congressional oversight of different administrations. The credibility of oversight is undermined if a Republican Congress follows one set of rules during a Democratic administration and a different set during Republican administration; the same is true if a Democratic Congress follows different practices for Republican and Democratic administrations. Congress’ institutional interest for information and accountability should be the same regardless of which party controls the White House. It’s equally important for those rules to be exercised in a reasonable and responsible manner so that oversight abuses are prevented.
President Trump and congressional Republican leaders claim that the President was denied a fair opportunity to defend himself in the House impeachment proceedings. President Trump said, “We’re not entitled to lawyers. We’re not entitled to witnesses. We’re not entitled to anything in the House.” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham introduced a resolution stating that the House has “abandon[ed] more than a century’s worth of precedent and tradition in impeachment proceedings.” These assertions, however, find no support in either the rules or practices applied during the House impeachment proceedings against President Trump.