Trump turns against 'total joke' Koch brothers after North Dakota snub

Aaron P. Bernstein  ReutersSen. Heidi Heitkamp speaks with reporters ahead of the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington

Aaron P. Bernstein ReutersSen. Heidi Heitkamp speaks with reporters ahead of the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington

"The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade", Trump tweeted early Tuesday.

Neither representatives of Koch Industries or officials from the political network responded to a request for comment. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business lobby, has publicly criticized the billions of dollars worth of tariffs the administration has targeted at China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

The announcement - made in front of hundreds of top conservative donors - came as the Koch network took steps to distance itself from the Republican Party during a weekend retreat. Thus, the support for Heitkamp, who took on fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren from MA and fought to roll back the regulatory measures in the Dodd-Frank regulatory apparatus.

And in a variety of other ways, the Koch network remains closely aligned with the Republican agenda.

"I have beaten them at every turn", Trump wrote of the Kochs. "But if you're a Democrat and you stand up to Elizabeth Warren and corral enough votes for financial reform. you're darn right we'll work with you".

Americans For Prosperity, the political and policy arm of the Koch network, declined to support congressman Kevin Cramer's bid to unseat politically vulnerable Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

The Kochs' decision nonetheless sends a strong message to Republicans that there may be real consequences for those unwilling to oppose Trump.

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President Donald Trump launched an attack on the Koch brothers, political mega-donors with a history of supporting Republican and libertarian causes. Trump carried North Dakota by more than 30 points.

Most Republican senators tread carefully Tuesday since they are eager to win support both from Trump and from Koch-aligned donors - a balancing act that could be hard as tensions flare. On Monday, Freedom Partners, another Koch-backed organization, released an ad directly targeting farmers, asking them to reject Trump's policies because farmers "want trade not aid".

Charles Koch, the chairman and CEO of the industrial conglomerate Koch Industries, oversees the network of about 700 donors.

The Kochs refused to endorse Mr Trump's presidential campaign in 2016, but after he won they found common ground, especially on tax cuts.

Cramer has the endorsement of President Trump, and at a campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota last month, said he will be with the president "100 percent of the time".

But Charles Koch told reporters in recent days that he cared little for party affiliation and regretted supporting some Republicans in the past who only paid lip service to conservative principles.

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