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Melania Trump on Thursday said the anonymous author of an explosive New York Times op-ed alleging her husband is unfit for office is “sabotaging” the country.

“To the writer of the op-ed — you are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions,” she told CNN.

Though the first lady asserted that a free press “is important to our democracy” and called freedom of speech “an important pillar of our nation's founding principles,” she lamented the frequency of anonymous sourcing in news stories and stressed the seriousness of the op-ed’s accusations.

“People with no names are writing our nation’s history,” she said. “Words are important, and accusations can lead to severe consequences. If a person is bold enough to accuse people of negative actions, they have a responsibility to publicly stand by their words and people have the right to be able to defend themselves.”

The White House has spent the last 24 hours playing defense against the ongoing fallout from the Times piece, which contends that a group of administration officials are working against the president from within the executive branch “to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” and “to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday sought to ramp up pressure on the Times to out its source, encouraging reporters to contact the paper with their inquiries regarding the mystery writer.

Numerous senior administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and several cabinet secretaries, have denied authoring the op-ed.

“If you want to know who this gutless loser is, call the opinion desk of the failing NYT,” the president's spokeswoman wrote online, including the phone number. “They are the only ones complicit in this deceitful act. We stand united together and fully support our President Donald J. Trump.”

Source Politico.com

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