Ordinarily, when a person hears someone has been talking shit about them behind their back, they complain to friends, maybe console themselves with booze or ice cream, and ultimately try to get on with their life. They don’t go trying to make a federal case about it. That, however, is exactly what President Donald Trump seems ready to do, according to his latest comments on the anonymous New York Times op-ed essay detailing a clandestine “resistance” to his worst political instincts.
Speaking with the press on Friday, Trump suggested that the Department of Justice should actively open an investigation into the identity of the essay’s author.
“I would say [Attorney General] Jeff [Sessions] should be investigating who the author of that piece really was,” Trump said, according to an Associated Press report. “Because I really believe it’s national security.”
Trump added that he was “looking at” taking action against both the New York Times and the essay’s author. It’s unclear what sort of action he had in mind.
The president continued, per a transcript of the remarks from the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey:
Supposing I have a high level national security, and he has got a clearance, we talked a lot about clearances recently, and he goes into a high level meeting concerning China or Russia or North Korea or something. I don’t want him those meetings.
This is far from the first time the president has cited “national security” as the justification for a seemingly unrelated course of action. His administration has also claimed that importing steel and aluminum is a threat to national security; keeping outdated coal and nuclear power plants operational is “essential to support the Nation’s defense facilities”; and that barring transgender men and women from the military is to “ensure the safety and security of the American people and the best fighting force in the world.”
As Ned Price, a national security spokesperson for President Barack Obama who quit the CIA last year, told the Washington Post last month: “It’s patently obvious that the president is using national security as a cloak to hide his domestic political agenda.”
The question now becomes whether Trump’s Department of Justice—under his much beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions—will actually go through with the president’s threat. Speaking with CNN, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores simply said, “We do not confirm or deny investigations.”