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story.lead_photo.caption Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday told his fellow Republicans in Congress to "stop wasting their time" on immigration legislation until after the November elections. GOP leaders said they'd press on anyway.

A little more than four months before the congressional elections, Trump also took a new shot at Democratic lawmakers, accusing them of spreading "phony stories of sadness and grief" about young immigrants separated from parents by his "zero tolerance" policy on illegal border crossings.

Trump's tweet on immigration legislation was the latest example of his abrupt reversals on issues, to the dismay of Republicans who crave his backing as a seal of approval for conservative voters. Just Tuesday, he met privately with GOP lawmakers and told them he supported the immigration legislation and would have their backs in November.

"Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November," he tweeted. "Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solve this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!"

On Capitol Hill on Friday, the mood was gloomy, particularly among the more centrist Republicans who have been pushing the party's immigration compromise. That bill would provide $25 billion for Trump's border wall and set new limits on family visas in favor of merit-based entry — but also create a path to citizenship for young "Dreamers." It seemed to be losing — rather than gaining — support ahead of rescheduled voting next week. Trump had publicly backed the bill earlier in the week.

"It's a horrifically chilling signal," said another retiring Republican, Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who recently lost his primary election after frequently criticizing Trump.

"What the president just signaled is, 'I'm not going to be there.' And therefore I think people will take the cue," Sanford said. "I think it makes immigration reform that much more unlikely."

Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho said lawmakers who are counting on Trump to provide a presidential nudge should reconsider. "He changes so frequently that anybody who depends on that, I think, is in trouble," he said.

Others, particularly conservative Republicans who don't support the immigration deal, said Trump's actions should come as no surprise. He ran on disrupting Washington, aides said, and that's exactly what he's doing.

At a White House meeting this week with some two dozen wayward Republicans who needed nudging on the immigration bill, one lawmaker directly asked the president if he would reverse course on it the way he did when he threatened to veto the budget deal, according to two Republicans familiar with the private exchange.

The president reassured them that would not happen, they said.

"Everybody is sensitive to what the president is saying," said Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., who's undecided on the immigration measure. "I think it makes it very, very difficult. ... What he says influences a lot of members."

The assessment of Trump's changes isn't much different at the White House, where officials were caught off guard by his sudden shifts this week on immigration — including his reversal in signing an executive order to halt the separation of immigrant families at the border.

Officials portray a president who increasingly relies on his own counsel, ignoring their advice. They say they follow along with the rest of the country on Twitter to learn what their boss is doing.

"Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November," Trump tweeted early Friday. "Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solve this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!"

Officials said the president's haphazard actions seem to have less to do with campaign politics — or even his own standing with voters — than ego. He's frustrated with Congress and the media, particularly after the flop of the GOP's health care overhaul last year, which made him wary of fully embracing legislation before it passes.

"No one has more to lose in November than the president does when it comes to the majority in the House, because if this majority flips over to being a Democrat, there will be a big push for impeachment," said Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., who opposes the immigration bill.

House GOP leaders have made it clear they do not expect the immigration bill to pass but have little choice but to press forward and keep a promise made to moderate Republicans.

One leading architect of the bill, Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, holds out hope that the bill can be revised to gain support.

"What we need from the president is for him to sign a good immigration bill, and he and his team have indicated that he will. That's all we need," Curbelo said.

Besides, said Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y., a supporter of the bill, maybe Trump will change his mind again: "Just wait a few hours, the tweet will be different."

Read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • RBear
    June 22, 2018 at 11:56 a.m.

    Trump is probably the biggest challenge to any meaningful legislation. His continued actions are designed more to disrupt the process and create chaos rather than work towards a solution. This continues to show how inept he is at governing. I know. A bunch of false hyperbole should follow this comment from his freaks.

  • RBBrittain
    June 22, 2018 at noon

    The House & Senate GOP need to press on because Trump's stupidity will only increase the size of the "blue wave" this fall.

  • Illinoisroy
    June 22, 2018 at 12:02 p.m.

    This is his attempt to get the issue out of the headlines until after the mid-term elections, then it will return to criminals and family separation.

  • 3WorldState1
    June 22, 2018 at 12:10 p.m.

    This guy has to be the worst CEO in history.

  • RP57
    June 22, 2018 at 12:59 p.m.

    A booming economy, lowered income taxes, and nonexistent unemployment hardly qualifies for worst CEO in history.

  • RecumbentDNA
    June 22, 2018 at 1:35 p.m.

    RP57: "booming economy, lowered income taxes, and nonexistent unemployment"
    Are all on borrowed money.... from our children's future.

  • LRDawg
    June 22, 2018 at 1:37 p.m.

    RP, we had all that AND health insurance until this Russian installed CEO. This time next year, gas will be $4 a gallon, stocks will plummet, jobs will continue to move overseas and farmers will be dirt poor. Its the Republican getting richer, poor getting poorer

  • dunk7474
    June 22, 2018 at 2:19 p.m.

    If everyone wasn't afraid of mike pence, this orangeheaded buffoon would be toast.

  • Delta123
    June 22, 2018 at 2:33 p.m.


  • Packman
    June 22, 2018 at 2:36 p.m.

    As usual, President Trump is right. Democrats will not support any immigration fix as it will be viewed as a win for President Trump; to hell with helping DACA individuals and real immigration reform anything that might make President Trump look good is simply out of the question. That Chuck Shumer has promised to filibuster ANY such legislation regardless of how good or bad it may be is all you need to know.
    This is also a good move politically. Take immigration reform off the table and out of the news. Let the good news about the economy, jobs, and other Trump wins take center stage. President Trump is turning into a brilliant tactician. Simply brilliant.
    Hey RBB - What's your prediction about the "blue wave"? Recent polls have shown the wave to be more like a small ripple. Rasmussen says normal Americans are losing interest in the Mueller investigation and blame the alien parents for the latest manufactured crisis almost 2 - 1 more than President Trump. Blacks continue to be "ho hum" about voting democrat. How many seats do you believe the dems will flip?