TODAY'S PAPER

It's whack-a-mole time at Trump's White House

President Donald Trump prepares to board Marine One at the White House on Thursday as he heads to Billings, Mont., for a rally. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Mandel Ngan

Mystery on the MAGA Express What rhymes with op-ed? Try drop dead.

That's the sentiment of the White House — though perhaps not unanimously — toward the "senior official in the Trump administration" who wrote the anonymous opinion piece about a cadre of Donald Trump's appointees reining in his worst impulses. Their ire was also on fire toward The New York Times for publishing it.

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Mystery on the MAGA Express

What rhymes with op-ed? Try drop dead.

That's the sentiment of the White House — though perhaps not unanimously — toward the "senior official in the Trump administration" who wrote the anonymous opinion piece about a cadre of Donald Trump's appointees reining in his worst impulses. Their ire was also on fire toward The New York Times for publishing it.

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A guessing game has gone wild over who wrote it, and dozens of officials, senior and seniorish, from Vice President Mike Pence on down lined up to say "not me," or words to that effect. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried a variation of Melania Trump's back-of-the jacket "I really don’t care, do u?” message about the mole hunt.

“The media’s wild obsession with the identity of the anonymous coward is recklessly tarnishing the reputation of thousands of great Americans who proudly serve our country and work for President Trump. Stop,” she wrote. Those who “want to know who this gutless loser is," she added, should "call the opinion desk of the failing NYT." 

Trust this: Trump wants to know.

On Wednesday night, he demanded via Twitter that the Times, "for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!" That didn't happen, so on Thursday he tweeted "Are the investigative 'journalists' of the New York Times going to investigate themselves — who is the anonymous letter writer?"

Melania cares, too. "You are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions," the first lady said in a statement addressing the author. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.  

Heard from the butler yet? 

Trump got printouts of each denial as it came in, CNN reported. While he sought the assurances of loyalty, the spectacle turbocharged the impact of what his partisans viewed as treachery. The Washington Post said it seemed to delight Democrats, who reveled in the paranoia pulsing through the ranks of Trump’s supporters in Washington and beyond.
“It probably won’t take long for us to find out who wrote it,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, almost gleefully. She rattled off a few names of potential suspects and joked, “I guess by process of elimination, it’ll come down to the butler.”

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested using lie detector tests to find out if anyone with a security clearance is "talking to the media against the policy of the White House."

Ad hoc controlling authority

Former CIA Director John Brennan, a Trump nemesis who recently had his clearance yanked by the president, sympathized with the author's motives. "People are doing abnormal things,” he said on NBC's "Today" show. “People have criticized me for speaking out as a former director. But I see all the warning signs of looming disaster, as does this person.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said the underlying story about how Trump aides struggle to manage him was "really troubling, and yet in a way, not surprising” because “it’s just so similar to what so many of us hear from senior people around the White House, you know, three times a week."

Janison: Lessons not learned

When Rudy Giuliani's prestige was at its peak — after 9/11 and long before he became Trump's "truth isn't truth" legal mouthpiece — he wrote a book called "Leadership." It's too bad Trump isn't much of a reader, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Both the president and the country  might have been better off absorbing the principles Giuliani drew from his experiences.

One chapter is titled "Prepare Relentlessly." Another is titled "Study. Read. Learn Independently," in which Giuliani says: "Anybody who's going to take on a large organization must put time aside for deep study." That's not Trump. Neither is "a willingness to take responsibility" when things go wrong.

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Trump's rocket fan

Kim Jong Un told South Korean officials he still has faith in Trump's commitment to ending their nations' hostile relations amid frustration over the stall in nuclear arms negotiations, according to the delegation from Seoul that met with the North Korean leader.

Chung Eui-yong, who led South Korea's delegation, said Kim told him that he has not once talked negatively about Trump to anyone, including his closest advisers.

Trump responded Thursday by tweeting, "Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims 'unwavering faith in President Trump.' Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!"

Bench press

Democrats sought to shed a new light on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday with unsealed documents that included an email that showed he once challenged the description of the Roe v. Wade decision as “settled law.”

Questions on abortion rights and the power of presidents, including Trump, to fire special prosecutors dominated much of Kavanaugh’s second day of questioning, in which he responded with carefully prepared responses or refusals to answer. Republicans repeatedly praised the judge for his demeanor and views. For more, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.

Catch and don't release

The Trump administration moved to abandon a long-standing court settlement that limits how long immigrant children can be kept locked up. In its place, Homeland Security officials proposed new regulations that would allow the government to detain families until their immigration cases are decided. The move angered immigrant rights advocates and is all but certain to trigger a court battle.

The 1997 agreement requires the government to keep children in the least restrictive setting possible and to release them, generally, after 20 days in detention. For decades, because of those restrictions, many parents and children caught trying to slip into the country have been released while asylum requests wind their way through the courts — a practice Trump decries as "catch-and-release." 

What else is happening:

Trump will not answer questions from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, in writing or in person, about whether he tried to block the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Giuliani told The Associated Press.

Trump will mark the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks by participating in a ceremony at the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a hijacked airliner crashed after passengers stormed the cockpit to thwart the terrorists from striking the Capitol in Washington, the White House said.

Shrugging off a threat from Trump to shut down the government, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he has a good understanding with the president on getting a funding bill passed and signed by a Sept. 30 deadline.

Documents obtained by The Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act show a National Park Service photographer edited official pictures of Trump’s inauguration to make the crowd appear bigger following a personal intervention from Trump, who was enraged by images showing smaller crowds than for President Barack Obama in 2009.

Trump flew west Thursday for a two-day campaign swing through Montana and North Dakota to try to keep Republican control of Congress. He insisted he's not the one who's in a tizzy and did a little "deep-state" conspiracy projection.

Melania Trump adopted her husband's practice of making inaccurate generalizations in a statement of her own condemning the mystery writer's opinion piece: "Unidentified sources have become the majority of the voices people hear about in today's news."