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. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The impromptu meeting represents the latest example of a longtime Trump adversary conferring with the president-elect at his winter retreat. Over the weekend, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim met with Trump for dinner at Mar-a-Lago after more than a year of acrimony.
Ruddy was hosting Koch and his wife, Julia, for dinner when Trump appeared, along with incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Trump and Koch then began to talk about the campaign and Trump’s preparations for his administration, the associates said.
This Koch meeting, though, was far more informal than the Slim dinner and was more of a reintroduction of two prominent figures who had grown apart during the 2016 race.
This past July, for example, Trump feuded with the Kochs over whether he was invited to address a high-dollar donor event. He tweeted: “I turned down a meeting with Charles and David Koch. Much better for them to meet with the puppets of politics, they will do much better!”
The associates cautioned Wednesday about reading too much into the Trump and Koch meeting and said the relationship is still in need of repairs. But they described the conversation as a first step in Trump’s and Koch’s building a better rapport.
There are many Koch allies in Trump’s orbit. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has long been supported by the Koch network, and adviser Kellyanne Conway has worked with affiliated groups. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), the nominee to direct the CIA, is close to the Koch operation.
A representative for the Trump transition was not available for comment.