Paul Ryan praises free trade at Koch retreat

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  • Ryan is his party's most prolific fundraiser
  • He only mentioned Trump in passing, calling his party's nominee "unique"

Colorado Springs, Colorado (CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday warned the nation's top Republican donors that their party was "flirting with these various forms of progressivism," sounding the alarm about the GOP's now less-than-ironclad support for foreign trade deals.

"As Republicans, our challenge is to become a pro-market party and not a pro-business party," Ryan said. "Free trade is one of the things that helps knock down those barriers -- which we're having a hard time with our party these days."
    He added: "There are Republican forms of progressivism. Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican. And so we're flirting with these various forms of progressivism. And we have to thoroughly debunk it, repudiate it with something better."
    Ryan did not mention Donald Trump -- the Republican nominee who has lambasted free trade deals on the campaign trail -- by name at this exclusive conclave in the Rocky Mountains. Yet Trump's shadow has cast long over this libertarian-focused conference hosted by Charles and David Koch.
    The House speaker was at ease before the well-heeled crowd, who gave him a standing ovation as he entered. Ryan is his party's most prolific fundraiser, and several of the Koch network's most prominent donors have given generously to Ryan's fundraising committees.
    Trump has run counter to the Kochs' purist form of free market thinking, promising tariffs on countries like China, and pushing the Republican Party toward protectionism. That has been part of the reason why the Kochs are sitting out the presidential race, spending their $250 million political budget this cycle on Senate races and policy initiatives instead.
    Ryan only mentioned Trump in passing, calling his party's nominee "unique," and today's politics as "clearly an interesting moment."