Tim Phillips amanpour
Koch group: We're not an appendage of any party
14:17 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

President Donald Trump on Thursday continued his attacks on billionaire Charles Koch, his latest broadside against the conservative donor who is vital to Republican candidates.

“Charles Koch of Koch Brothers, who claims to be giving away millions of dollars to politicians even though I know very few who have seen this (?), now makes the ridiculous statement that what President Trump is doing is unfair to ‘foreign workers.’ He is correct, AMERICA FIRST!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s public attacks against Koch and his brother David, who recently retired, highlight a growing divide between the populist base of the Republican Party represented by the President and the business-minded wing that for years has relied heavily on the Koch brothers’ financial support and influence.

The President was apparently referring to remarks Charles Koch made over the weekend, which were reported by some news outlets as describing Trump’s trade policies – which the Koch brothers have opposed – as “unfair” to other countries. Koch, however, was arguing that Chinese subsidies hurt Chinese workers, but do not hurt American consumers who purchase those goods at a lower cost. Koch’s main point is his belief that Trump’s tariffs have hurt Americans.

“We should just get rid of all barriers … We should let all goods in. So, they subsidize it? Yeah, it’s unfair, it’s unfair to their people. If they’re selling goods to us at a low cost, you go to Walmart, they’re going to discount it — oh, we can’t do that, that’d be unfair to us? It’s ridiculous.”

In a response to the President’s tweet on Thursday, Koch network spokesman James Davis said, “We have a long-term commitment to unite around issues that will help people improve their lives. Just as we have in the past, we will work together with the President, elected officials and others where we agree. And, where we disagree, we will do so in a civil way.”

The President amped up his attacks on the Koch brothers this week after he was criticized at a Koch network summer meeting.

During the conference, network co-chair Brian Hooks criticized Trump and his administration, saying “the divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage.”

And Charles Koch said that his network would “hold people responsible” for not defending his network’s libertarian principles and policy priorities, raising speculation that the Kochs are reconsidering their typically full-throated support for Republican candidates in the midterm elections.

Trump responded on Tuesday, calling the brothers a “total joke in real Republican circles” and claimed he never “sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas.”

This story has been updated to include the statement from the Koch network.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Koch was referring to the effect of Chinese policies on Chinese workers.

CNN’s Rebecca Berg contributed to this report.