UPDATE – Trump: Justice Dept. should probe NY Times op-ed writer

ADDS NY TIMES RESPONSE, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT COMMENT; REMOVES EARLIER BACKGROUND

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday the Department of Justice should find out who penned a scathing anonymous op-ed in the New York Times that has sent shockwaves through the administration.

"I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security," Trump told reporters onboard Air Force One, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The unknown official behind the editorial acknowledges that he or she is part of a group "working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations," referring to Trump. The comments appear to corroborate parts of a forthcoming book the administration has sought to dismiss as "fiction," frustrating its efforts to do so.

"We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic," the official wrote. "That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office."

The newspaper kept the official's identity under wraps but said it knows who he or she is.

Following the op-ed's publication Wednesday, a long list of senior Trump administration officials have come out publicly to deny they are behind it, including Vice President Mike Pence.

Speculation had mounted online that the official is Pence due to the author's use of the word "lodestar," an uncommon term the vice president has used numerous times in the past.

Asked if legal action should be taken against the Times, Trump said he is looking into the possibility in addition to seeking to uncover who wrote the opinion piece.

In response to the president's comments on Friday, the Times said it is "confident" the Justice Department "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 was referring to the Constitution's protections of free speech.

"The President'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 to American society," the Times added.

The Justice Department said in a statement sent to Anadolu Agency it does not confirm or deny investigations.

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