GOP senators seethe as Donald Trump blows up immigration compromise

By Manu Raju, Melanie Zanona, Lauren Fox and Ted Barrett | CNN

Senior Senate Republicans are furious that Donald Trump may have killed an emerging bipartisan deal over the southern border, depriving them of a key legislative achievement on a pressing national priority and offering a preview of what’s to come with Trump as their likely presidential nominee.

In recent weeks, Trump has been lobbying Republicans both in private conversations and in public statements on social media to oppose the border compromise being delicately hashed out in the Senate, according to GOP sources familiar with the conversations – in part because he wants to campaign on the issue this November.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged in a private meeting on Wednesday that Trump’s animosity toward the yet-to-be-released border deal puts Republicans in a serious bind as they try to move forward on the already complex issue. For weeks, Republicans have been warning that Trump’s opposition could blow up the bipartisan proposal, but the admission from McConnell was particularly striking, given he has been a chief advocate for a border-Ukraine package.

Now, Republicans on Capitol Hill are grappling with the reality that most in the GOP are loathe to do anything that is seen as potentially undermining the former president – and coming to terms with the fact that Trump is likely going to be their party’s standard bearer.

“I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is is really appalling,” said GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump.

He added, “But the reality is that, that we have a crisis at the border, the American people are suffering as a result of what’s happening at the border. And someone running for president not to try and get the problem solved. as opposed to saying, ‘hey, save that problem. Don’t solve it. Let me take credit for solving it later.’”

GOP Sen. Todd Young of Indiana expressed concern over the idea of the border deal being scrapped for political reasons, saying: “I hope no one is trying to take this away for campaign purposes.”

“I would encourage (Senate GOP negotiators) James Lankford and other conservatives to produce a work product with which they will shortly allow conservatives like myself to review it and take heart that there are a number of us who won’t be looking to third parties and assessing the propriety of passing this bipartisan proposal,” Young said.

It’s an all-too-familiar dynamic for the Republicans who served while Trump was in office, where he could easily derail legislative action on Capitol Hill with the blast of a single tweet or stir up a new controversy that Republicans were forced to respond to. And with Trump now marching toward the presidential nomination, Republicans are once again bracing for life with him as the nominee.

GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina – who has also been involved in the talks – said he didn’t know if anyone could convince Trump to not kill the deal. But he acknowledged that it would take some “courage” for members to be able to press ahead at this point in defiance of Trump – though Tillis argued it would ultimately be beneficial for Trump for them to pass a border security deal.

“I think this is when members of the Senate have to show some courage and do something that at the end of the day will be very helpful for President Trump,” Tillis said.

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