Everyone, including President Donald Trump, wants to know who wrote the bombshell op-ed published by the New York Times. "I think their reporters should go and investigate who it is", Trump told the crowd.
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".
Trump, battling one of the deepest crises in his 20-month presidency, has raged about Wednesday's searing essay, branding its unidentified writer a "gutless" coward and accusing The New York Times of borderline treason for publishing it.
In response to the president's comments on Friday, the Times said it is "confident" the Justice Department "understands that the First Amendment protects all American citizens and that it would not participate in such a blatant abuse of government power".
"He goes into a high level meeting concerning China or Russian Federation or North Korea or something, I don't want him in those meetings", he said. "That somebody is allowed to do that is very sad commentary", Trump said onboard Air Force One. "And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't".
The White House has been on the hunt for the author of the op-ed as well as the sources for a forthcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward, CNN has reported.
In the op-ed, headlined "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration", the author describes a chaotic administration under a petty and reckless leader.
Calling the letter "inconsistent with the White House I know,"Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Kevin Hassett denied writing the op-ed himself and continued to doubt its legitimacy".
Hindustan Times, owned by HT Media Ltd, is one of India's largest publications that provides unbiased news, analysis and features on politics, sports, entertainment, lifestyle and more.
A day earlier, Mr Trump's top lieutenants stepped forward to repudiate the op-ed in a show of loyalty to their incensed boss, who has ordered aides to unmask the writer.
Trump attacked the book as a "scam", and suggested hardening the country's "pathetic" libel legislation.
The party's "central organising principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism and now they're cozying up to the former head of the KGB", he said.
"It shouldn't be Democratic or Republican to say we don't target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray".