President Trump said Friday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should launch an investigation to identify the anonymous author of a New York Times op-ed who claimed to be part of a “resistance” inside the administration.
Mr. Trump called it a “national security” issue.
“Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” the president told reporters aboard Air Force One as they traveled from Montana to Fargo, North Dakota, for campaign events.
Mr. Trump also is looking into possible action against The New York Times.
The New York Times responded that an investigation would be a “blatant abuse of government power.”
“We’re confident that the Department of Justice understands that the First Amendment protects all American citizens and that it would not participate in such a blatant abuse of government power,” the newspaper said in a statement. “The President’s threats both underscore why we much safeguard the identity of the writer of this Op-Ed and serve as a reminder of the importance of a free and independent press to American democracy.”
The president also said that he was still exploring what action could be taken against the author.
“Supposing I have a high-level national security, and he has got a clearance … and he goes into a high-level meeting concerning China or Russia or North Korea or something,” he said. “I don’t want him in those meetings.”
Mr. Trump has fumed about the anonymous op-ed that was first published online Wednesday. The author was described as a senior administration official, a title that could apply to hundreds of people scattered across scores of agencies in Washington.
White House aides and Washington journalists have scrambled to find the author but it remains a mystery.
In the op-ed, the official claimed to be part of a group within the administration was protecting America from the president’s erratic behavior.
“The dilemma — which [the president] does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” wrote the official.
Mr. Trump didn’t rule out giving lie-detector tests to administration officials, saying Sen. Rand Paul made that suggestion and that he likes and respects the Kentucky Republican.
Still, the president said he trusts the people around him in the White House. But he is being more selective about who attends major meetings, he said, adding he doesn’t want people in the room with whom he is not already familiar.
He called the White House a “well-oiled machine.”
“It is running beautifully,” he said.
The unflattering depiction in the op-ed mirrored criticisms from Mr. Trump’s political foes going back to the 2016 presidential race.
The op-ed gave Democrats fresh ammunition to muse about removing Mr. Trump from office under the 25th Amendment, which sets procedures for replacing the president or vice president in the event of death, removal or incapacitation.
• Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this story.
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