Bannon slams Kochs: ‘What they have to do is shut up and get with the program’
Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon on Sunday slammed the Koch network for comments made by its top officials over the weekend criticizing President Trump’s financial policies.
“What they have to do is shut up and get with the program,” Bannon said in an interview with Politico. “And here’s the program: Ground game to support Trump’s presidency and program, [and] victory on Nov. 6.”
Top Koch network officials, including billionaire conservative activist Charles Koch himself, at a conference over the weekend derided Trump’s aggressive trade policies, claiming they could hurt the U.S. economy.
Koch in a video for donors warned against “a rise in protectionism,” a reference to Trump’s immigration and trade policies.
Trump in recent weeks has slapped billions of dollars in tariffs on goods from China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union (EU), escalating what some fear amounts to a “trade war.” Though Trump and EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker last week pledged to work toward a solution to the trade clash between Washington and Brussels, Trump has not shown signs of backing down on his policies, particularly tariffs against China.
The retaliatory tariffs from the countries Trump has targeted have already harmed U.S. manufacturers, even leading some to move their production overseas in anticipation of financial losses.
Though the Koch network has pledged to spend $400 million during the 2018 midterm elections, top Koch officials on Sunday said they will more aggressively target Republicans who do not adhere to the network’s free-market views on issues like spending and tariffs.
“I regret some of the [lawmakers] we have supported … We’re gonna more directly deal with that and hold people accountable,” Koch said on Sunday.
Groups affiliated with the Koch network this election season have run ads calling out a dozen GOP lawmakers for supporting the $1.3 trillion spending bill that passed in March. The network has also spent money on ads this cycle thanking Democrats who have supported Koch projects.
“The divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage,” senior Koch official Brian Hooks told reporters on Sunday. “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,” he added.
Bannon said the Koch network does not “know how to win.”
“This is why they don’t know what it means to win, OK? We don’t have time to have some theoretical discussion and to have their spokesman come out and say the president is divisive,” Bannon told Politico.
“Charles Koch is a good man, but 100 days before an election that will determine the direction of the country is not the time to tell us that you are prepared to work with Democrats that support parts of your progressive agenda,” Bannon added.
In response to Bannon’s comments, a Koch network spokesman told Politico that the network still looks forward to “working with President Trump.”
“We are focused on uniting the country to help remove barriers that are preventing people from reaching the potential,” he said. “Toward that end, we look forward to working with President Trump, Congress and communities whenever possible to help people improve their lives.”
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