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

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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