Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, last month sought answers from the Administration on why it reportedly won’t disclose documents regarding the decision by the Treasury Department and Federal Housing Finance Agency to amend the terms of the government’s ownership stake in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The documents reportedly involve an amendment to the agreement that resulted in billions of dollars of profit from the mortgage financing firms being captured by Treasury. The Justice Department responded to Grassley that a number of documents are included in provisional privilege logs because they may fall within the scope of the presidential communications privilege. However, the Justice Department stated that an actual assertion has not been authorized by the President and indicated that no decision about whether actually asserting the privilege would be needed “unless and until plaintiffs file a motion to compel” production. Grassley made the following comment on this provisional privilege.
“You have to wonder if the provisional privilege is brinkmanship or bluster by Justice Department lawyers rather than a legitimate signal that the President would actually assert the privilege to keep the records secret. The public’s business generally ought to be public, especially when the American people’s money is involved. The government needs to justify its rationale for keeping the public in the dark.”