Trump calls for NYT probe

President Donald Trump on Friday called on the US justice department to investigate the New York Times after the news outlet published a column this week by an anonymous administration official questioning his fitness for office.

By Reuters
  • Published 8.09.18
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President Trump speaks to journalists aboard Air Force One on Friday as he travels to Fargo, North Dakota. (AFP)

Aboard Air Force One: President Donald Trump on Friday called on the US justice department to investigate the New York Times after the news outlet published a column this week by an anonymous administration official questioning his fitness for office.

Trump also said he was considering taking action against the Times, whose shares moved briefly lower after his comments were made public.

"We're going to see. I'm looking at that right now," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Attorney-general Jeff Sessions "should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it's national security".

Trump did not indicate what sort of action he was considering against the Times and it was unclear what legal grounds he could act on.

A justice department spokeswoman said the department does not confirm or deny investigations. The Times could not be immediately reached for comment.

A number of top Trump advisers have disavowed the piece, which was published on Wednesday without a name in what the Times said was a rare but necessary move to protect the writer.

In the column, the writer slammed Trump's "amorality" and leadership style. The official said there were a number of US officials who were part of an "quiet resistance" inside the administration who was "working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations".

Trump regularly attacks the media for focusing on negative news about his administration and decries what he perceives as "fakes news". He repeated on Air Force One that he believes libel laws should be strengthened.

Earlier this week the justice department said is set a meeting with state attorneys general to discuss concerns social media platforms are stifling conservative voices.

'Perjury trap'

Trump said on Friday he was open to sitting down with investigators probing possible collusion between his election campaign and Russia "under certain circumstances", but did not want to get caught in a"perjury trap". "I'd do it under certain circumstances," Trump told reporters on board Air Force One.

"I think that if we're going to meet it's got to be a fair meeting," he said. "I don't want to be set up with a perjury trap."

Rudy Giuliani, an attorney representing the President, said on Thursday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia probe, wanted Trump to commit to a follow-up interview after providing written answers to questions about possible coordination between members of Trump's presidential election campaign and Moscow.

"I don't see how we can do it," said Giuliani, who has expressed concern about the risk of Trump committing perjury. Lawyers for Trump have been negotiating over an interview with Mueller's team since last year in the US investigation of Russian meddling in the election.