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Thune: Trump allies engaging in ‘cancel culture’ for censuring GOP senators who voted to convict

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On Thursday, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) accused Republican politicians and activists of engaging in “cancel culture” for seeking to censure GOP senators who voted to impeach and convict former President Donald Trump.

In his first interview since he voted Saturday to acquit the former commander-in-chief, the No. 2 Senate Republican defended GOP lawmakers who sided with Democrats on the “vote of conscience” and warned against shutting out dissenting voices in the party.

“There was a strong case made,” Thune said of the Democrats’ impeachment presentation to the Associated Press. “People could come to different conclusions. If we’re going to criticize the media and the left for cancel culture, we can’t be doing that ourselves.”

Next year, the three-term senator is facing reelection in deep-red South Dakota. According to the AP, Trump loyalists are huddling to challenge Thune in 2022, which could present a bitter battle for Thune since his candidacy has gone unchallenged in past elections.

The senator only rarely criticized Trump while he was in office, as the AP noted. However, he called the former commander-in-chief’s actions after the 2020 presidential election “inexcusable” and accused him of undermining the peaceful transfer of power.

The South Dakota Republican, according to the AP, also suggested that he would be taking steps to assist candidates who “don’t go off and talk about conspiracies and that sort of thing.”

Moreover, Thune lauded GOP Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party for voting to impeach Trump, for doing an “exceptional job on most issues” and said he was ready to jump into primary battles like the one she is sure to face.

“At the grassroots level, there’s a lot of people who want to see Trump-like candidates,” Thune told the AP. “But I think we’re going to be looking for candidates that are electable.”

Like Cheney, Republican Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.), who voted to convict Trump, were censured by their states’ Republican parties. The Pennsylvania GOP, the AP reported Monday USA Today, is reportedly planning a meeting to discuss censuring outgoing Sen. Pat Toomey for his vote to convict the former president.

During the Senate impeachment trial, Thune and other Republicans argued that Trump could not be impeached because he was no longer in office. After his vote, according to the AP, Thune said that he was concerned with the idea of “punishing a private citizen with the sole intent of disqualifying him from holding future office.”

Nonetheless, Thune indicated last week, according to The Hill, that he was open to censuring Trump before the final impeachment vote was held.

“I know there are a couple of resolutions out there […] I’ve seen a couple of resolutions at least that I think could attract some support,” Thune said to reporters at the time.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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