Leak hunting: The US president and his insider critics

US President Donald Trump departs after speaking at a Make America Great Again rally in Great Falls Montana

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.

Sen. Rand Paul is said to have suggested to Trump that he make his officials take a lie-detector test to root out the dissenter, while others close to the president are considering making senior officials sign sworn affidavits that could be used in court, The Times reported.

"Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece is because I believe it's national security", Mr Trump said.

Yesterday, Mr Trump called on Jeff Sessions, the head of the justice department, to open an investigation to unmask the senior official behind the critical article.

"Supposing I have a high-level national security, and he has got a clearance, we talked about clearances a lot recently, and he goes into a high-level meeting concerning China or Russian Federation or North Korea or something", he said.

The writer, who described themselves as a senior official in the Trump administration, added that Mr Trump's "erratic behaviour would be more concerning if it weren't for unsung heroes in and around the White House".

A day after the op-ed was published, the highest-ranking officials in the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, took the extraordinary step of publicly denying they or their offices were behind the essay.

He added that they are not "doing us a service by actively promoting 90 per cent of the insane stuff that's coming out of this White House, and then saying, 'Don't worry, we're preventing the other 10 per cent'". The president said it was a "disgrace" the op-ed was published. And it's far from clear that the vivid portraits of erratic presidential behavior described by Woodward and the op-ed writer would breach national security.

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"I think it is national security".

"I would know. I am one of them", the anonymous official wrote. "I don't know, but it just does not look like the White House that I know". "That person should be found out and stopped", Giuliani said.

In the piece, the author, whose identity the Times is withholding, wrote "I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations".

The president dismissed the article as "gutless" and potentially treasonous, and said his administration was a "well-oiled machine".

"Our libel laws are pathetic", he said.

In the CBS interview, Pence blasted the op-ed and the Times, saying that "the author of the anonymous editorial, and frankly The New York Times, should be ashamed".

President Donald Trump's reaction was a combination of rage and self-pity. Victor told the Federal Bureau of Investigation she mailed the document to an online news outlet.

Trump repeated denials that his campaign conspired with the Russian attack or that he might have broken the law by trying to frustrate the subsequent investigation.

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