The New York Times pushed back Friday on President Trump’s suggestion that the Justice Department should track down the anonymous senior Trump administration official whose Times op-ed set off a firestorm earlier this week.
“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 Times said in a statement. “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 Wednesday op-ed was unflattering to Trump, accusing the president of “amorality” and “misguided impulses.” It also posited the existence of a Republican “resistance” to the president inside the administration, which the author claimed to be a part of.
“The dilemma — which [Trump] 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,” the op-ed reads. “I would know. I am one of them. . . . 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.”
Trump condemned the op-ed on Wednesday, calling it “gutless” and “really a disgrace.”
“We have somebody in what I call the failing New York Times that’s talking about he’s part of the resistance inside the Trump administration,” the president said. “This is what we have to deal with. And you know the dishonest media.”
On Twitter, Trump wondered whether the “senior administration official” really exists or if it is a “phony source.” He added that if the official was telling the truth, the newspaper should turn his name over to the government “for national security” reasons.
Some Trump officials responded with disgust to the op-ed, saying the author “should be ashamed.”
“The New York Times should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts,” Vice President Mike Pence’s communications director wrote on Twitter.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the newspaper should not have “chosen to take a disgruntled, deceptive, bad actor’s word for anything and put it in their newspaper.”