President-elect Donald Trump had a private exchange Wednesday night with billionaire industrialist David Koch, with whom he clashed during the 2016 presidential race and whose conservative policy objectives have often diverged from Trump's agenda.The huddle at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., was witnessed by several people and orchestrated by Trump's friend, Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy, according to two Trump associates familiar with the conversation.
At the first blush, the Washington Post's report about Donald Trump huddling with David Koch might not seem especially noteworthy. And while a billionaire Republican president elect is widely expected to visit with a billionaire Republican megadonor, there's a broader context to this story that's worth appreciating.
In July 2015, as a variety of Republican presidential candidates headed to California in the hopes of impressing the Koch brothers, Trump said via Twitter that he likes the Koch brothers, but he didn't want "their money or anything else from them." A few days later, Trump added that his GOP rivals were acting like the Kochs' "puppets."Trump kept pushing this message for months, repeatedly complaining about the Koch brothers and their search for a Republican "puppet." As recently as late July 2016, just five months ago, Trump boasted that he had an opportunity to meet with the Kochs, but he turned it down. It's "much better for them to meet with the puppets of politics," the Republican declared.Of course, that was before the election, when Trump wanted voters to see him as an outsider who had no use for powerful special interests.Now that he's president-elect, it's a very different story -- for both Trump and the Kochs.Indeed, as we talked about a month ago, the Koch brothers may have opposed Trump, and may have kept a relatively low profile during the campaign, but their relevance is rising quickly now. Politico reported a few weeks ago, "From White House Counsel Don McGahn and transition team advisers Tom Pyle, Darin Selnick and Alan Cobb to inaugural committee member Diane Hendricks and transition-team executive committee members Rebekah Mercer and Anthony Scaramucci, Trump has surrounded himself with people tied to the Kochs."This doesn't include Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Trump's choice to lead the CIA, who's been fairly characterized as the Koch brothers' "favorite congressman."And now Trump himself is reportedly huddling with David Koch at a Florida resort.Voters who actually believed Trump's anti-Koch posturing before the election appear to have fallen for a bait and switch.