President Trump wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation into which senior administration official anonymously authored an explosive New York Times op-ed, published earlier this week, that questioned his fitness to serve and revealed that aides have been secretly thwarting his more dangerous impulses. “I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was,” Trump told reporters on Friday. “Because I really believe it’s national security.”
There’s only one problem: No obvious crime was committed that would warrant a Justice Department investigation. “On its face, I don’t see anything in that op-ed that would serve as a basis to conduct a criminal investigation,” said David Laufman, a former high-ranking Department of Justice official who served as the chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section before leaving in February. A leak investigation would not be warranted because, “on its face, the op-ed does not contain classified information,” he noted.
The New York Times said in a statement that a DOJ investigation would constitute “a blatant abuse of government power.” “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 president’s threats underscore why we must safeguard the identity of the writer in this op-ed and serve as a reminder of the importance of a free and independent press to American democracy.”