Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Trump trashes Kochs in intraparty feud

INFIGHTING:The Kochs have refused to endorse a Senate candidate in North Dakota and have not ruled out similar moves, but have been supporting Republicans elsewhere


The war of words between two titans in US Republican politics on Tuesday intensified as US President Donald Trump trashed the conservative billionaire Koch brothers as a “total joke in real Republican circles.”

The presidential insult followed a weekend gathering of Koch officials who repeatedly condemned Trump’s trade policies, the explosion of government spending under his watch and his divisive tone.

The intraparty feud could hurt the party in this fall’s midterm elections and beyond.

While the Kochs refused to endorse Trump’s 2016 run, his loyalists do not want his 2020 re-election campaign bogged down by lingering bad blood.

The Koch network boasts an army of grassroots activists across 36 states and has promised to spend between US$300 million and US$400 million on politics and policy this election cycle alone.

“The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade,” the US president said on Twitter. “I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas.”

“I’m for America First & the American Worker — a puppet for no one. Two nice guys with bad ideas,” he added later.

Over the weekend, 82-year-old network patriarch Charles Koch refused to criticize Trump personally when reporters asked whether the president should bear any responsibility for the divisive tone in Washington.

“We’ve had divisiveness long before Trump became president and we’ll have it long after he’s no longer president,” Koch said during a rare question-and-answer session with reporters. “I’m into hating the sin and not the sinner.”

Responding to Trump’s social media attack, Koch spokesman James Davis was measured.

“We support policies that help all people improve their lives. We look forward to working with anyone to do so,” he said.

The day before, the Kochs’ political advocacy network announced that it would not back the Republican candidate in the race for one of North Dakota’s seats in the US Senate, saying that Republican challenger Kevin Cramer’s record on government spending made him no better than US Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, in the marquee contest.

The Kochs have not ruled out similar moves in top-tier Senate races in Indiana, Missouri, Montana and West Virginia, although they are actively working to help elect Republican Senate candidates in Florida, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

“We’ve got a message for lawmakers across the country. We are raising the bar, raising expectations,” Koch lieutenant Emily Seidel told donors on Monday.

While the move echoed across the political world, Republican operatives quietly dismissed the practical effects of the Kochs’ decision on the North Dakota Senate race, where Cramer’s campaign believes he has a double-digit lead in the deep-red state against Heitkamp.

However, there is a desire for the Kochs to cooperate with Trump allies in other states, such as Nevada and Montana, where Republican candidates are considered more vulnerable.

Some Trump loyalists were furious at perceived contradictions in the Koch network’s behavior and worried that it could complicate the president’s 2020 re-election bid.

“The Kochs had zero to do with Trump’s win in 2016,” former White House counselor Steve Bannon told reporters. “But they were willing to support the tax cut and the deregulation, while opposing the heart of Trumpism — trade and immigration.”

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