Selin is an assistant professor of Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
George Washington, hero of the American Revolution and the country's first president, in 1796
withheld documents the House of Representatives had requested from him regarding treaty negotiations with France.
Washington's reluctance to hand over these documents has
echoed through time, in conflicts between Congress and Presidents Monroe, Jefferson, Adams all the way to Presidents Coolidge, Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan, among others. For the most part, members of Congress still must rely on the president and his administration for information in the areas of foreign relations and intelligence.
The testimony is part of a
chain of events that began in August when an anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, who is tasked by Congress to identify problems in the national intelligence agencies. The complaint related to reports that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. The developing conflict between Trump and Congress has involved, among other aspects, a struggle over who can have access to crucial documents.
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