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A number of presidents have invoked executive privilege over the years. Not just George Washington in 1796 but Presidents Jefferson, Monroe, Jackson, Tyler, Polk, Fillmore, Buchanan, Lincoln, Grant, Hayes, Cleveland, both Roosevelts, Coolidge, Hoover and Truman. And, in more recent times, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

They all understood the power to subpoena is the power to destroy, and that they owed a duty not just to their own presidency but to future ones to fight such intrusions.

Speaking of Messrs. Nixon and Clinton, both Congress and the courts have every right to use subpoenas to obtain evidence of a possible crime — like Richard Nixon’s White House tapes or Bill Clinton’s grand jury testimony. Hence the current attempt to manufacture a crime, or at least a scandal, out of this president’s decision to replace eight federal prosecutors, all political appointees serving at the president’s pleasure.

If the Democratic majorities in Congress think they’ve got the goods on this president, or on his hapless attorney general, let them begin impeachment proceedings and prove high crimes and misdemeanors have been committed. But as Nixon infamously said on tape, and Bill Clinton demonstrated at excruciating length, “Perjury is an awful hard rap to prove.”

In place of impeachment proceedings, what Congress is producing is a lot of overheated rhetoric. Exhibit No. 1 may be the letter to the White House from John Conyers and Patrick Leahy, chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Its most questionable assertion: “The veil of secrecy you have attempted to pull over the White House by withholding documents and witnesses is unprecedented.”

Unprecedented? Tell it to George Washington.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.