One of the many problems that emerged during the recent five-week government shutdown was Donald Trump's capacity for making negotiations impossible. His lieutenants would approach Democrats with a compromise offer, for example, only to have the president veto his own allies' ideas. Democrats quickly realized that talks served no practical purpose.
The shutdown may be over, but Trump's willingness to undermine those ostensibly negotiating on his behalf continues. Take this morning, for example.
President Donald Trump appeared to torpedo Republicans on a House-Senate border security conference committee by suggesting its GOP members are "wasting" their time because Democrats will never support funding for his proposed southern border wall. [...]"Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee are wasting their time. Democrats, despite all of the evidence, proof and Caravans coming, are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL. I've got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don't expect much help!" he tweeted.
Let's just get a few quick things out of the way. First, the wall is not "already being built." This may be one of the president's favorite lies, but it's demonstrably false.
Second, it's not at all clear why Trump directed his comments to "Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee." The negotiations underway are with members of the Appropriations Committees.
Third, if, in Trump's mind, the wall is "already being built," and he doesn't see the need for congressional "help," why in the world did he shut down the government?
But putting all of these relevant details aside, there's a more pressing issue that the president may not understand or care about: he's undermining the talks on Capitol Hill, where his allies are trying to get him what he wants.
To recap, to resolve the shutdown, policymakers agreed to a three-week stopgap bill, called a "continuing resolution" (or CR). The idea was to allow lawmakers to return to the table in the hopes of finding a compromise on funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
The process is unfolding through something called a "conference committee," featuring a group of 17 members selected by party leaders from both chambers' appropriations committees, which will have been tasked with finalizing one spending bill. If/when they put together a package agreeable to all parties, they'll present a "conference report" to be voted on in the House and Senate without amendments. If it passes, the bill would then go to the White House for a presidential signature.
Republicans on the conference committee are, of course, pushing Democratic members to support the president's demands for wall funding. It's against this backdrop that their leader on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue just told them they're "wasting their time." Indeed, Trump went on to tell them he doesn't much care.
Take a wild guess who benefits -- and who doesn't -- when the president makes public declarations like these while negotiations are underway.
So why did he do this? Maybe Trump's impulse troubles got the better of him. Maybe he's confused about the process and what his Republican allies need from him.
And maybe the president has already decided to pursue his wall through a national-emergency declaration and he's lost interest in what Congress comes up with.