House panel signals Russia probe document dump before midterms
Trump allies want Congress to find anonymous op-ed author
Key congressional allies of President Trump are floating the idea that Congress could take steps to try and find out who wrote the anonymous op-ed in The New York Times disparaging the president.
That action could take the form of an investigation, legislation or hearings.
"We're looking right now at what's the appropriate action from a legislative standpoint to review what's happened," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus who also leads a subcommittee that conducts oversight of federal employees, told USA Today. "It is alarming when you have people ... that would suggest resistance to the president that they're serving, especially in light of discussion that may go into the national security realm."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a one-time presidential rival to Trump, suggested White House officials who hold a security clearance should undergo lie detector tests in an attempt to ferret out staffers speaking ill of the president.
And House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) didn't rule out the possibility of a congressional probe.
"I'm sure we have a number of members that are looking at it right now," Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in House leadership, told The Hill.
Trump loyalists are enraged that there are administration officials working against the president, casting such agents as "cowards" and "spies" who should immediately resign. They have also lambasted The New York Times for printing an op-ed written by someone purportedly working as a senior administration official describing the actions of an internal resistance group.
But Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters Thursday at his weekly news conference that he didn't think Congress should be getting to the bottom of the op-ed mystery.
Asked if Congress has any role to investigate, Ryan replied: "Not that I know of."
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), who serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also poured cold water on the idea that Congress should get involved.
"Other than expressing your sentiment, there is little we can do, realistically," Ross told The Hill.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) - one of Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill and the frontrunner to become the next Speaker if Republicans retain control of the House - said the administration, not Congress, should investigate the matter.
"I think the White House should look into it," he told The Hill on Thursday, while raising concerns that the anonymous official could continue working for the administration.
"I think that's a real problem if that person stays in the job they currently are in," he said.
The op-ed author described Trump as erratic, ill-informed and amoral. The writer also described a group of "unsung heroes" in and around the White House who have aggressively worked to halt Trump's "agenda and his worst inclinations."
Trump has called on The New York Times to reveal the identity of the author, saying he or she may have committed treason.
"If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!" Trump tweeted.
Sebastian Gorka, former deputy assistant and strategist to Trump, told The Hill that treason is a very real possibility.
"There are only two possible scenarios given the current lack of credibility the New York Times is suffering form and the wording of the piece: 1) This is a complete fabrication. 2) It was written by the low-level Obama-era holdover, not a 'senior official' given the complete lack of any evidence in the piece demonstrating that this was written by a person working close to the President," Gorka wrote in a text message.
"If it is the latter, then this is a textbook case of Sedition. And if this were 1917 or 1944 it would be Treason," added Gorka, an opinion contributor to The Hill. "No one elected this person, as a result they have no choice but to dutifully serve the duly elected President. Or resign. If they don't General Kelly will root them out and President Trump will fire them."
Some GOP lawmakers close to Trump found themselves facing questions about the Times op-ed at an unrelated news conference at the Capitol on Thursday.
"I don't believe that that person is doing a good service to faithfully execute their job and the performance of their duties," said GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, who has campaigned with Trump in their home state of New York. "That person should not be inside of the administration and they should submit their letter of resignation and move onto something else."
But Zeldin would not say whether the writer had committed treason, as the president intimated.
Another Trump ally, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), interjected to say, "I think the job is called spy."
Morgan Chalfant contributed.