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Koch Group Official Criticizes Trump Travel Ban as 'Wrong Approach'

29 Jan 2017 8:59 pm
By Rebecca Ballhaus 

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- A top official at the network of groups backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch on Sunday criticized President Donald Trump's travel ban, a day after officials had declined to take a formal position.

"We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families," said Brian Hooks, a co-chairman of the network. He called the ban the "wrong approach" and said it would "likely be counterproductive."

Mr. Hooks added: "Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies."

Citing security concerns, President Donald Trump late Friday suspended the U.S. refugee program for four months and banned for 90 days entry into the U.S. of nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somali, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

As the three-day retreat opened on Saturday, donors, network officials and Charles Koch himself were largely silent about the travel ban and about Mr. Trump's election.

Mr. Hooks told reporters Saturday that the network hadn't yet determined its position on the executive order. Mark Holden, also a co-chairman of the network, sought to differentiate between the ban Mr. Trump proposed during the campaign and the new executive order, saying the order focused less explicitly on religion.

The order does, however, give priority to Christians and others from non-Muslim religions living in predominantly Muslim countries.

Last April, in comments broadcast on ABC, Mr. Koch lambasted Mr. Trump's proposal to temporarily ban Muslims as "reminiscent of Nazi Germany," he said. "I mean, that's monstrous." He called the measure "antithetical to our approach."

In his opening remarks Saturday, Mr. Koch lauded the network's success in the 2016 cycle, but didn't name Mr. Trump -- whom the network didn't support in 2016, after backing Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. Mr. Koch is set to speak again Sunday at the retreat.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 29, 2017 15:59 ET (20:59 GMT)

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