After months of talks between Democrats and Republicans, word emerged last week that a deal, in principle at least, was in hand for Ukraine aid and a compromise to address the crisis of immigrants crossing the Mexico border.

At its center is Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the Democrats' lead negotiator.

Prospects looked good at least in the Senate as President Joe Biden in recent weeks, seeing his poll numbers plummet on the border issue, suggested he'd be okay tightening asylum rights for immigrants — part of what the deal would do.  The agreement would also send tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, help that should be automatic but Republicans won't do it without a clampdown on the southern border. 

Enter Donald Trump. Just as details started to leak out, the former president and likely GOP nominee pressured Republicans in the House and Senate to spurn the deal outright, according to news reports.

Suddenly a vote that could happen this week is cast in deeper doubt. Murphy is working to save the landmark deal, "which would be the biggest bipartisan reform of our border and immigration laws in 40 years," he told Dana Bash on CNN Sunday.  

The episode has Murphy as the main Democrat rebuking Trump on the meddling, and on Trump's cynical intent. He didn't hold back. 

"We do have a bipartisan deal," Murphy said on CNN. "We can show that Washington can still stand up and work on these big problems even if Donald Trump is rooting for chaos."

To be clear, Murphy and other Democrats are saying Trump is lobbying his followers in Congress to deep-six a deal that Republicans reached, just to make sure Biden doesn't score a win on a tough issue. "And the question is whether Republicans are going to listen to Donald Trump, who wants to preserve chaos at the border because he thinks that it is a winning political issue for him, or whether we’re going to pass legislation," Murphy said. 

Talks continued Monday as Murphy spent the day working the phones, an aide said. He was not available to comment on the chances of a vote this week. 

The deal would give Biden more power to shut down out-of-control, illegal border crossings. It would make applying for asylum harder for people entering the United States, allowing border agents to turn people away at times of especially heavy border crossings. It would also speed up asylum hearings and work permits, Murphy told Bash, though he declined to give details. 

Some hard-left Democrats are sure to oppose the reform, which does not include a path to citizenship for the more than 12 million people in the United States without documentation. While some Republicans support the bill, hardliners, egged on by Trump, call it a disaster. 

"It essentially codifies illegal immigration," South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who traveled to the Mexico border Friday, told Bash right after Murphy appeared

Bash played clips of three GOP senators who appeared to back the deal, including John Cornyn of Texas, a former attorney general and supreme court justice in his home state who has held his current seat 22 years. Noem responded, hilariously, "they do not have the knowledge and the facts." 

Noem, openly auditioning for the role of Trump's running mate, said Biden could shut down the border without the bill. 

"Why doesn’t president Biden take action today?" she asked on CNN. "He can immediately announce that he’s restarting the stay-in-Mexico policy, he can immediately announce that he’s going to refocus on building a wall… We have a president that has all the tools he needs to protect our country today and he’s refusing to do that."

Um, no. Even Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., the lead GOP negotiator, pointed out on two Sunday talk shows that the deal includes border controls Trump himself requested, The New Republic reported. 

Murphy expressed outrage on both Ukraine, where he said Republicans are willing to let Russian President Vladimir Putin march through the nation toward Western Europe, and the border.  "All of a sudden they are against border and immigration reform because they are afraid it might pass," he said on CNN. "They want to keep the border in a chaotic situation for political purposes."

Trump, for his part, continues to pan the deal and doesn't deny pressuring Republicans. "I said 'That’s okay, please blame it on me.' I’d rather have no bill than a bad bill," he said at an event over the weekend. 

And Biden, eager for a compromise, said he would do what the GOP hardliners say he can already do. "If that bill were the law today I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly."

Amid the debate we should not lose sight of this sickening political question. Would Republicans block an otherwise acceptable compromise to win the November election?

The most horrific case of sabotage to win an election was in 1980, when operatives working for Ronald Reagan traveled to several Arab countries to get word to Iran: Don't release the 52 hostages until after the election when President Jimmy Carter loses. We will offer you a better deal. 

Iran released the hostages on Day 444, precisely as Reagan took the oath of office in January, 1981. And Reagan's White House did illegally and secretly sell arms to Iran, in the Iran-Contra Affair

Congressional investigations concluded there was no clear evidence Reagan's campaign had meddled in the hostage crisis. Then last spring, people involved in it admitted it was true to the New York Times and The New Republic and more evidence came out. 

Murphy knows this history well. He's right to accuse Trump of a cynical ploy, putting U.S. security at risk. And as with Carter in 1980, there's not much anyone can do about it.