President Donald Trump said Friday his Justice Department should launch an investigation into who penned an anonymous New York Times op-ed that painted him as unfit for his job.
The op-ed, penned by an unnamed government official, claimed that a large cadre of officials across the government are working hard to stifle Trump’s most extreme policy whims. It also alleged that early on, senior officials toyed with using the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.
Reporters traveling with Trump to Montana and the Dakotas asked him whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions should look into which senior administration official, as the Times described the author, wrote the piece.
“I think so,” Trump replied. “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.”
Some administration officials and allies claim the author could have hindered national security by giving U.S. foes and friends alike the sense that there is a weak and unfit commander in chief in the Oval Office. Trump echoed that sentiment Friday.
“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,” he said. “I don’t want him in those meetings.”
The president went as far as to claim he is looking at whether the Times should be punished for publishing the anonymous piece.
Should the author be punished, the reporters asked?
“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,” Trump replied.
While some conservative Trump allies on Capitol Hill have said they want to help the president identify the writer, Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday he is unaware of any role to that end that lawmakers could or should play.
Trump even implied he has looked into legal action on author and longtime journalist Bob Woodward, who is set to publish a new book that paints a negative portrait of the Trump presidency.
“Our libel laws should be toughened up so you can’t do that,” he said. “Our libel laws are pathetic. Our libel laws should be toughened up so that if somebody writes things that are fraudulent and false, they get sued and they lose.”
There is no movement on Capitol Hill, however, to move such a measure.
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Meantime, Trump signaled any meeting between him and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III would come with stipulations — from his camp.
“I’d do it, but under certain circumstances,” he told reporters on Air Force One. “If we’re going to meet, it’s got to be a fair meeting.”
He again denied any communication or coordination with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“There was no talking to Russia. There was no phone calls. I didn’t make phone calls to Russia. I didn’t receive phone calls. I didn’t have meetings. I didn’t have texts. Anything. I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said.
“If I met with Russians, you people would have found out,” he said. “You know everything I’m doing. You don’t always report it correctly. But I’m used to it.”