Donald Trump lashed out at the "globalist" Koch brothers Tuesday, calling them “a total joke” among Republicans after members of the conservative megadonors' network criticized the White House’s protectionist trade policies over the weekend.
Trump claimed he had beaten the brothers “at every turn,” that their network of donors was “overrated” and that their attacks on his administration were prompted by a desire to protect their own business interests.
“They want to protect their companies outside the U.S. from being taxed, I’m for America First & the American Worker — a puppet for no one. Two nice guys with bad ideas,” Trump tweeted.
Leaders of the Koch network surprised Washington Saturday when they announced that their American for Progress group of roughly 500 top conservative donors would no longer solely fund GOP candidates, but would also consider pro-growth Democrats.
"If you are a Democrat and stand up to [Senator] Elizabeth Warren to corral enough votes for financial reform that breaks barriers for community banks and families, you're darn right we will work with you," Emily Seidel, CEO of the group, told attendees at the group’s retreat.
In a rare briefing with reporters, Charles Koch echoed that idea, saying: "I don't care what initials are in front or after somebody's name."
The announcement came at the network’s annual summit in Colorado Springs, where speakers laid into the White House’s protectionist policies. “The divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage,” Brian Hooks, a senior Koch lieutenant, told reporters.
Trump was unlikely to ignore the attack, unleashing a pair of tweets criticizing the industrialists early Tuesday:
While Trump claimed he never sought funding from the Kochs, the network refused to contribute to Trump’s campaign in 2016, and the brothers labeled his Muslim ban as reminiscent of Nazi-era racism.
Trump’s attack came after his former chief strategist Steve Bannon also hit out at the Koch brothers, telling them to stop undermining the Trump presidency. “What they have to do is shut up and get with the program, OK?” Bannon told Politico. “And here’s the program: Ground game to support Trump’s presidency and program, [and] victory on Nov. 6.”
Cover image: In this February 26, 2007 file photograph, Charles Koch, head of Koch Industries, talks about his new book on Market Based Management. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images)