U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Trump tells DOJ to investigate author of anonymous op-ed criticizing him

Incident Details

Screenshot of anonymous New York Times op-ed
September 7, 2018

President Donald Trump called for the Department of Justice to investigate the author of an anonymous op-ed within his administration, and said he was considering taking action against the New York Times for publishing it.

On Sept. 5, 2018, the Times published an opinion column titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” The anonymous author claimed in the op-ed that he was part of a group of administration staffers who tried to “resist” Trump’s impulsive decisions.

In an editor’s note, the paper said that the person who wrote the op-ed was a “senior administration official” whose identity was known to the Times but who had wished to remain anonymous.

Shortly after the op-ed was published, Trump said on Twitter that the newspaper should reveal the author’s identity to the government.

On Sept. 7, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to direct the DOJ to unmask the identity of the author. Trump said that this was a national security imperative.

“I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was, because I really believe it’s national security,” Trump said.

"For somebody to do this is very low, and I think, journalistically and from many different standpoints, and maybe even from the standpoint of national security, we'll find out about that," he added.

In a statement, the Times said that any such investigation by the DOJ would be 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 paper said. “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.”

Trump also said that he is looking into potentially taking legal action against the Times for publishing the op-ed, according to reports from multiple news outlets.

Trump has frequently vowed to take legal action against news organizations whose coverage he finds unfavorable, but he has not followed through on the vast majority of these threats.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].