President Trump called Friday for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation into the identity of the anonymous author behind the explosive op-ed published earlier this week in The New York Times.
The president, who has been on a tear ever since the column was posted, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the opinion piece critical of his leadership is a "national security" issue.
Asked if he’d take action against the Times, Trump said "we're going to see, I'm looking at that right now."
The op-ed, written by an unnamed “senior” official, described a secret inside effort to protect the country from Trump’s “misguided impulses.” It touched off a furious hunt for the author, while a slew of Cabinet-level officials and others have scrambled to deny responsibility and condemn the writer.
Following Trump's comments, Michael M. Grynbaum, a journalist at The New York Times, tweeted a statement from the outlet saying they're "confident" the DOJ "understands that the First Amendment protects all American citizens and that it would not participate in such a blatant abuse of government power."
"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 democracy," the statement continued.
Trump, in an earlier interview with “Fox & Friends,” said the Times should not have even had the piece.
“It’s treason, you could call it a lot of things,” he said, repeating a statement he made on Twitter earlier this week.
But he went on to complain that the author’s anonymity made the article difficult to combat.
“What’s unfair, I don’t mind when they write a book and they make lies because it gets discredited,” he told Pete Hegseth, adding that it’s challenging “when somebody writes and you can’t discredit because you have no idea who they are.”
It’s unclear whether Sessions would make any move to investigate. He and Trump have had a deteriorating relationship, with the president repeatedly and publicly faulting him for the course of the Russia probe, from which Sessions recused himself – ultimately leading to the appointment of a special counsel.
When Trump last month complained that Sessions “never took control” of the DOJ, Sessions put out a sharply worded statement saying: “While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.