U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)  

Trump’s Ire at Op-Ed Is Unlikely to Justify a Federal Probe, Officials Say

(Bloomberg) -- The op-ed article tearing into President Donald Trump that the New York Times attributed to an unidentified senior administration official isn’t likely to justify an investigation by the Justice Department, according to two U.S. officials.

Although the op-ed dealt with some national security matters, there’s no immediate indication that classified information was compromised, which would be one of the necessary requirements to justify a federal investigation, said the people who are familiar with handling classified material and asked not to be identified.

The essay, which said some of Trump’s closest advisers work in secret to thwart his “more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” enraged the president. He said in tweets that the newspaper must turn over the writer to the government “for National Security purposes” and asked, “TREASON?”

“I see no basis for any legitimate referral for an investigation by DoJ,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor. “I didn’t see anything in there which could rationally be argued to be an exposure of confidential information.”

Anyone Can Ask

However, anyone can ask the department to open an initial review, Cotter said. A request from the president or a lawmaker to do so could carry particular weight, he added. The department declined to comment on whether it’s already looking into the matter.

Cotter said the author appears to be a long-time government official who knew how to be careful in his or her wording, especially in referring largely to information already known to the public.

“Whoever wrote that seemed to be smart,” Cotter said. “It struck me that this is somebody who’s been in government awhile.”

While Trump has openly criticized and ridiculed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the continuing probe into Russia’s election interference, Sessions has embraced Trump’s views on most other law enforcement issues, including leaks from inside government.

The attorney general announced last year that the Justice Department would step up efforts to investigate and prosecute leaks, increasing by three times the number done under the Obama administration.

“I think it has reached epidemic proportions,” Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee in November. “It cannot be allowed to continue, and we will do our best effort to ensure that it does not continue.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.