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Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2019

Sen. Mitch McConnell was jolted with a fresh reminder of President Trump’s capriciousness last month: The majority leader persuaded Republican colleagues to take a politically difficult vote to temporarily fund the government, but not a border wall, only to see Trump withdraw support — initiating the longest shutdown in history.

House Republicans learned the same lesson early in Trump’s presidency when he rallied them to repeal Obamacare, then described their effort as “mean.”

As Trump reaches the halfway mark of his term on Sunday, he has left a trail of negotiating partners from both chambers of Congress, both political parties and countries around the world feeling double-crossed and even lied to.

The result is that the president who campaigned as the world’s best deal-maker, vowing that he alone could fix Washington’s dysfunction, has been stymied as he looks for achievements before facing the voters again. Two years in, the man who built a political reputation as a guy who tells it like it is has lost the essential ingredients to closing deals: credibility and trust.

“He just undermined the trust and confidence that some Republican members did want to have in him,” said Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican who lost his House seat in November, in part because of Trump’s unpopularity.

The president’s squandered credibility, overlaid with nonstop investigations, is likely to imperil a second-half agenda that includes basic responsibilities — raising the nation’s borrowing limit, most essentially — as well as more ambitious goals. Among those are measures to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, win congressional approval of a revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada, overhaul immigration laws and lower the costs of prescription drugs.

McConnell, having been burned, has largely left the shutdown fight to Trump. House Republicans, having lost their majority in large part because of voters’ own dismay with Trump, are now on the sidelines as he must battle House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And Democrats, following her lead, are emboldened given their experience with the president’s unreliability as a negotiating partner. ...
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