Donald Trump Wants Jeff Sessions to Investigate Who Wrote The New York Times Op-Ed

President Donald Trump told reporters Friday that he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the identity of the senior administration official behind the anonymous New York Times op-ed essay published this week as he considered legal action against the paper.

Trump cited "national security" reasons as to why he wanted the Justice Department's most powerful lawyer to investigate.

"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 told reporters aboard Air Force One.

The president also said if the anonymous senior official had a high-level security clearance, "I don't want him in those meetings."

"Suppose I have a high-level national security [meeting] and he has got a clearance—we talk about clearances a lot recently—and he goes into a high-level meeting concerning China or Russia or North Korea or something and this guy goes in," Trump said. "I don't want him in those meetings."

Trump also said he was "very strongly" considering legal action against The Times, reiterating that he believed the publication of such a piece, which portrayed him as erratic, impulsive and potentially dangerous, was a "disgrace." The president suggested the paper made up the criticism themselves.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, The Times said a DOJ investigation would be a "blatant abuse of government power."

The statement reads: "We're confident 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 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."

As Trump made his remarks, former President Barack Obama spoke at the University of Illinois, where he coincidentally accused Trump of politicizing the Justice Department and ridiculed the "crazy stuff" that came out of the Trump administration.

The author of the op-ed, who was described only as a "senior official in the Trump administration," issued scathing criticism of the president, including what the author called his "amorality." The author claimed to be part of a larger group that has launched a "quiet resistance" within the administration, portraying themselves as "unsung heroes" battling the "erratic behavior" of Trump.

The author described meetings with Trump as going "off topic and off the rails," saying he engaged in "repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back." The author also wrote that "given the instability many witnessed," there were talks within Trump's cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment in an attempt to remove him from office.

More than two dozen administration officials have denied they wrote the essay.

Trump called the anonymous author "gutless" and accused the Times of using a "phony source."

The president tweeted Wednesday that if the person "does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!"

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky suggested Thursday that Trump should administer lie detector tests to all White House officials with security clearances to determine who the author was.

Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018

The Failing New York Times!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018

This story has been updated to include more details about Trump's comments to reporters and a statement from The New York Times.