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Trump wants Jeff Sessions to investigate the anonymous New York Times op-ed

Aboard Air Force One, the president said the op-ed was a “national security” issue.

AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is reportedly interested in using the Department of Justice to find the identity of the anonymous person who wrote an explosive New York Times opinion piece alleging to be “Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”

Debating the identity of the author of the op-ed has engulfed much of Washington, and now the president of the United States appears to want a full-scale investigation into the matter — potentially putting him at odds with both the New York Times and the First Amendment.

The remarks from Trump came aboard Air Force One, where he told reporters, “We’re going to see. I’m looking at that right now,” regarding asking the Department of Justice to “take action” against the New York Times for publishing the op-ed and keeping the author anonymous. He appeared to want to do so on national security grounds, saying that if the person has a high-level security clearance, “I don’t want him in those meetings.”

From the pool report:

Should Jeff Sessions investigate?

I think so. It’s national security. I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security.

Should action be taken against NYT?

I’m looking at that right now. It only happened yesterday.

Should something be done to the person who wrote it?

We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he’s talking about, also where he is right now. Supposing I have a high level national security, and he has got a clearance, we talked about clearances a lot recently, and he goes into a high level meeting concerning China or Russia or North Korea or something. I don’t want him in those meetings.

As my colleague Andrew Prokop wrote on Thursday, this isn’t the first time Trump has spoken out about the op-ed, which comes at the same time that Watergate reporter Bob Woodward’s book about the administration hits shelves:

Publicly, the president and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders have called the author a “coward.” The president tweeted the single word “TREASON?” before questioning whether the Times made the whole thing up.

Yet the Washington Post’s sources called Trump’s reaction “volcanic,” and a Politico source said the White House was in “total meltdown.” Both report that the White House is trying to figure out who the author is but is having little success so far.

In response to the President’s remarks, the New York Times released a statement, saying, “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,” adding that Trump’s threats “both underscore why we must safeguard the identity of the writer of this Op-Ed and serve as a reminder of the importance of a free and independent press...”

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