The Department of Justice is asking for information that could help it identify the anonymous author behind a forthcoming book that has been billed as an "unprecedented behind-the-scenes portrait" of President Donald Trump's time in office.
Assistant attorney general Joseph Hunt sent a letter on Monday to the author's publisher and literary agency demanding assurances that the author, who claims to be a current or former senior official in the Trump administration, did not sign a nondisclosure agreement and "did not have access to any classified information in connection with government service."
If the two firms, Hachette Book Group and Javelin, could not provide such a guarantee, Hunt asked them to provide the anonymous author's dates of government service and the agencies where the author was employed.
The government could likely use those details to determine the author's identity. The book, titled "A Warning," is scheduled to go on sale Nov. 19.
Hachette and Javelin responded defiantly later in the day, declining to comply with the Justice Department's request.
"Our author knows that the President is determined to unmask whistleblowers who may be in his midst. That's one of the reasons A WARNING was written," Javelin said in a statement. "But we support the publisher in its resolve that the administration's effort to intimidate and expose the senior official who has seen misconduct at the highest levels will not prevent this book from moving forward."
Hachette, for its part, said it had made a commitment of confidentiality to the author "and we intend to honor that commitment."
"Please be assured that Hachette takes its legal responsibilities seriously and, accordingly, Hachette respectfully declines to provide you with the information your letter seeks," the New York-based literary giant wrote.
The author of the book gained notoriety under the pen name "Anonymous" after publishing an op-ed in The New York Times last fall in which the person claimed to be part of an internal "resistance" movement within the administration. The op-ed went viral and spurred speculation about which Trump administration official could be behind it.
The Trump administration has aggressively pursued government officials suspected of leaking information to members of the media. In September, the Justice Department filed suit against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and his publisher Macmillan for failing to submit his book, "Permanent Record," to the government for clearance.