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The Latest: Trump has 4 or 5 suspects for op-ed writer

September 8, 2018

President Donald Trump speaks at a fundraiser in Fargo, N.D., Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. Trump is making his second visit to North Dakota's biggest city within 10 weeks to campaign for Senate candidate Kevin Cramer, this time to help Cramer build up his finances. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times (all times local):

9:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he can identify up to five people who could have written the anonymous New York Times opinion piece criticizing his leadership.

But he declined to name names when asked for them during an interview Friday with North Dakota television station KVLY. Trump was in Fargo to campaign for GOP Senate candidate Kevin Cramer.

Asked for his opinion on the identity of the senior administration official who the Times says wrote the piece, Trump says, “I could think of four or five, mostly people that either I don’t like or don’t respect.”

He says the individual’s identity will eventually become public.

Trump also claims the issue is “reverberating in the opposite direction.” He says people think it’s “disgusting” that the Times would publish such a piece.

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2:45 p.m.

A White House official says President Donald Trump’s comment about wanting the Justice Department to investigate the anonymous author of a critical New York Times opinion piece didn’t amount to an order to federal prosecutors.

The official isn’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and is speaking on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s call is the latest test of the department’s independence. The department is supposed to make investigative and charging decisions without political interference from the White House.

Trump has told reporters that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security.”

There’s no apparent evidence of a crime committed by the author.

—Associated Press writer Zeke Miller.

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12:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Attorney General Jeff Sessions should investigate the identity of the author of an anonymous New York Times opinion piece.

Trump says in an interview Friday with reporters aboard Air Force One that he believes the opinion piece critical of his leadership is a “national security” issue.

Asked if he would take any action against the Times, Trump says “we’re going to see, I’m looking at that right now.”

Adds Trump: “We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he’s talking about also where he is right now.”

Trump says if the person had a high-level security clearance, “I don’t want him in those meetings.”

Trump reiterated that it was a “disgrace” that the Times would publish the piece.

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1:30 a.m.

One after another, President Donald Trump’s top lieutenants have stepped forward to declare, “Not me.”

They lined up to deny writing an incendiary New York Times opinion piece that was purportedly submitted by a member of an administration “resistance” movement straining to thwart Trump’s most dangerous impulses.

By email, by tweet and on camera, the denials paraded in from Cabinet-level officials — and even Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday — apparently crafted for an audience of one, seated in the Oval Office.

Senior officials in key national security and economic policy roles charged the article’s writer with cowardice, disloyalty and acting against America’s interests in harsh terms that mimicked the president’s own words.

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