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President condemns ‘gutless’ source of piece revealing opposition within administration and claims paper must hand writer over
Donald Trump has called for the New York Times to reveal the identity of a senior administration official who the paper says is the author of a column revealing they are part of a “resistance” against the president’s “worst inclinations”.
The president vented his fury at the essay, which the newspaper said it had taken the rare step of running anonymously, saying the writer’s “identity is known to us” and their “job would be jeopardized by its disclosure”.
Its publication has prompted a frenzied search for the author.
Trump called for the source to be revealed in tweets on Wednesday evening, with one asking starkly: “TREASON?”
Then in a follow up tweet, he insisted: “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once.” Later he tweeted:
I’m draining the Swamp, and the Swamp is trying to fight back. Don’t worry, we will win!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2018
Earlier a defiant Trump, appearing at an unrelated event at the White House, said of the New York Times: “They don't like Donald Trump and I don't like them.”
He derided the article as “anonymous, meaning gutless” and described the author as “some anonymous source within the administration probably who is failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons”.
The essay immediately triggered a guessing game as to the author's identity on social media, in newsrooms and inside the White House, where officials were blindsided by its publication. The article’s language was being scrutinized for clues.
The writer, claiming to be part of the “resistance” to Trump – but not from the left – said: “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.”
The column went on: “It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room … We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't.”
Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent at CNN, reported that the author of the piece had used an intermediary several days ago to make contact with the New York Times op-ed editor Jim Dao.
Stelter said Dao had told him that there were only a "very small number of people within the Times who know this person's identity” and that a number of special precautions had been made to keep it protected. Dao would not elaborate.
The op-ed pages of the newspaper are managed separately from its news department.
Dao, Stelter reported, declined to comment on how senior the official was or reveal further nuances of the person’s role. It was unclear if the author worked in the White House or had direct contact with Trump.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, accused the author of choosing to “deceive” the president by remaining in the administration.
“He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people,” she said. “The coward should do the right thing and resign.”
Sanders also called on the New York Times to "issue an apology" for publishing the piece, calling it a "pathetic, reckless and selfish op-ed".
White House officials did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate on Trump's call for the writer to be turned over to the government or the unsupported national security ground of his demand.
The furore over the op-ed comes after Trump had also hit out at a highly critical book on his presidency by the respected investigative journalist Bob Woodward. Trump called the book a “con of the public”.
Woodward, one of the journalists who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, portrays the Trump White House as chaotic and dysfunctional in his new book, Fear.
In one section, Woodward says that Trump ordered the defence secretary, James Mattis, to kill the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad after a chemical attack on civilians, but Mattis dismissed the order.
Speaking on Wednesday to Anderson Cooper on CNN, the former secretary of state, John Kerry, asked about the Woodward book and the New York Times op-ed, said there was a "genuine constitutional crisis" around the presidency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report