Amid a morning flurry of tweets, President Trump took aim at two powerful figures on the right: brothers David and Charles Koch. "The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade," the president tweeted. "I never sought their support because I don't need their money or bad ideas," he continued, adding, "Their network is highly overrated." His comments, however, come after the Kochs lobbed an attack of their own at a weekend forum in Colorado. Coverage:
- Kochs' criticism: At a Koch network gathering in Colorado Springs, Charles Koch criticized Trump's tariffs and protectionist trade policies and suggested he's open to supporting Democratic candidates who are more in line with the Kochs' free-trade and libertarian views, reports the National Review. "I don't care what initials are in front or after somebody's name," he told the group.
- Turning point? A video during the forum showed businesses supposedly shuttered because of retaliatory tariffs, notes Politico, which says "the open hostilities at this weekend's conference came as something of a surprise." At Vanity Fair, Tina Nguyen sounds a familiar note: "The Kochs' hostility toward Trump isn't new, though their rhetoric seems to mark a turning point."
- Another shot: The president of the Charles Koch Foundation was even more cutting over the weekend: "The divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage," said Brian Hooks, per CNN. "When in order to win on an issue someone else has to lose, it makes it very difficult to unite people and solve the problems in this country. You see that on trade: In order to get to a good place on trade, convince the American people that trade is bad."
- Telltale race: The Koch network also has defied the White House in the Senate race in North Dakota pitting vulnerable Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp against GOP challenger Kevin Cramer, reports the Washington Post. Trump has personally campaigned for Cramer, but the Kochs say they can't support him because he's not fiscally conservative enough, citing, for example, his support of Trump's trillion-dollar spending package, per the Hill.
- Familiar face: The Kochs' criticism of the White House and their reticence to back the entire GOP ballot caused former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to lash out. "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." Trump's tweets, however, suggest he doesn't want their help now.
- The choice: In an analysis at the Atlantic, Reihan Salam susses all this out and frames it in general terms with this question: "Will the GOP be the party of Donald Trump or the party of Charles Koch?" The Kochs helped shape the GOP agenda during the Obama years, but the party's populist turn under Trump has them worried, he writes. However, this new split with the GOP may ultimately backfire for the brothers, he warns.
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